The federal government has faced continued scrutiny this week over vaccination rates in the aged care sector and not being able to accurately say how many workers are fully vaccinated, as the number of COVID cases in the latest outbreak sits at four.
Aged care services minister Richard Colbeck told the ABC on Tuesday morning that he couldn't be certain how many aged care staff had been vaccinated.
"I’m not going to give you a number I am not certain of," he said.
In senate estimates that day Colbeck said approximately 40,000 aged care workers had been fully vaccinated, but senate estimate figures put that number closer to 32,833.
With the aged care workforce said to be approximately 360,000, less than 10 per cent of staff have been fully vaccinated across a sector uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19.
Health and aged care minister Greg Hunt later put the figure at 17.3 per cent.
Colbeck clashed with the senate committee and Labour frontbencher Katy Gallagher in an exchange reminiscent of a previous encounter last year, in which Colbeck couldn't answer how many people had died from COVID-19 in aged care.
This time they clashed over, among other things, who is ultimately responsible for the vaccine rollout in aged care.
"Are you responsible, yes or no?" Gallagher asked.
"Well it's not a yes or no answer, senator," Colbeck retorted.
Since the start of the pandemic there have been 910 deaths due to the virus, with 685 of those deaths occurring in aged care, and 84 per cent of COVID cases in aged care have been linked to staff.
The government has also come under fire for appearing to shift the blame to staff for the low vaccination uptake.
The United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith called government rhetoric "nothing short of despicable".
“It is disgraceful that aged care workers are being dragged into an argument about whether vaccinations should be made mandatory,” Smith said.
“The truth of the matter is aged care workers have been left out of the vaccination program altogether – they simply have not had the option of getting the vaccine at all.
“Health Minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison are making a political play to escape responsibility for their failed aged care vaccination program.
The Victorian branch of the ANMF has called for minister Colbeck to resign over the Liberal government's abandonment of aged care.
"Don’t blame staff for not being vaccinated when you never told them you had no intention to vaccinate them at their workplace," said ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick.
"The royal commission revealed the private aged care system was in crisis before the pandemic. Australia needs an aged care minister who will never be comfortable until residents and staff are properly protected from COVID-19.
"We’re calling on Senator Colbeck to resign," Fitzpatrick said. "We need a minister who gets things done with a sense of urgency, care and respect for the residents and the dedicated staff."
Arcare Maidstone: Second resident tests positive to Covid-19
New details have emerged surrounding the case of a second resident who tested positive at an aged care facility in Melbourne’s western suburbs on Wednesday afternoon.
The man, who is 89, had been fully vaccinated and is asymptomatic, with arrangements being made to transfer him out of the facility.
Residents at the centre who had chosen to receive the jab had only received their second dose on Monday.
It is the fourth case recorded at Arcare aged care facility in Maidstone, where two staff members and another resident have also returned positive results.Do you have an idea for a story?
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