Aged care has been plunged back into the centre of a COVID-19 crisis as a staff member has tested positive for the virus in Victoria.
After Victorians headed back into lockdown for seven days at the end of last week, news emerged over the weekend that a worker at Arcare Maidstone in Melbourne's north west had tested positive for the virus and is worryingly, as yet, a mystery case with no known link to other positive cases.
The home has since been locked down, but there have been unconfirmed reports that residents may have since tested positive.
Labor MP Bill Shorten, whose electorate includes the centre, told ABC News Breakfast he had heard second-hand accounts from the centre that the virus had spread to other partially-vaccinated residents.
“Worryingly, both the staff member who recorded positive and one resident, possibly two, [who] have contracted Covid were both vaccinated in the first round,” he said.
“So it just emphasises to me, and I think to everyone listening, that two vaccinations is what we need.
“When I hear the federal government saying one vaccination is somehow [the] goal … you need two. One is not enough.”
Health and aged care minister Greg Hunt said that staff and workers at the home were vaccinated on May 12, but only 53 of the centre’s 76 residents had consented to be vaccinated.
“This is the first mystery case we have seen in this particular outbreak,” coronavirus testing commander Jeroen Weimar said.
“We have identified the infectious period as potentially being Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the 26 and 27 of May, and of course we have now put in place our full response."
The worker who tested positive had received their first vaccine dose. Only a third of aged care workers at the centre had received their vaccine.
Vaccine rollout “dangerously complacent”
The cases in aged care follow another week of consternation over the handling of the vaccine rollout.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck, said last week that he was "very comfortable" with the vaccination rates in aged care homes, despite the 29 aged care facilities in Victoria yet to receive their first dose.
It was revealed that 569 facilities had received just one dose and nationwide 74 facilities still to be vaccinated, before Thursday May 27.
Colbeck angered some in the sector with his comments and his suggestion that some homes had refused the jab.
“Some of them have chosen not to take the jab, which is a little disappointing, but it’s been their choice,” Colbeck said.
Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler called Prime Minister Scott Morrison “dangerously complacent" in regards to hotel quarantine and the vaccination rollout.
“Hundreds of thousands of aged care residents in Victoria remain without full protection because of Scott Morrison‘s failures on the vaccine rollout,” Butler said.
“Scott Morrison needs to come clean with the Australian people about his failures on vaccines and about the failure of the hotel quarantine system instead of continuing to push out these dodgy and misleading statistics.”
Lisa Fitzpatrick, the secretary for the ANMF victoria branch, blasted Scott Morrison, accusing him of being more concerned with "playing politics" than the safety of aged care workers and residents.
"The hindsight of almost 2000 Victorian aged care residents contracting COVID-19, 655 resident deaths and more than 1600 aged care workers infected was not enough to motivate the Morrison Government into urgent action.
"We are absolutely livid because the Morrison Government does not understand its role of responsibility and
oversight in its own aged care system," Fitzpatrick said.
Mandatory vaccines for workers a must
The manager at another of Arcare’s aged care homes has said that he wished the government would make the jab mandatory.
As news of the outbreak at Maidstone came to light, a concerned family told the manager of Arcare's Cheltenham facility that those who had not received the jab should not be allowed to work at the centre.
“I fully agree with your sentiment," the manager replied.
“The government unfortunately has not made the COVID vaccine mandatory.
“If we were to to (sic) what you and I agree on, we would be accused of discrimination and we have no legal backing whatsoever.
“This non mandatory COVID jab is for all unfortunately and I wish the government makes it mandatory.”Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]