Months into the coronavirus pandemic, Australia's aged care sector is 'still not properly prepared'

Cleaners are seen at Epping Gardens aged care facility in Epping, Melbourne, Thursday, July 30, 2020. Source: AAP

The aged care royal commission has been told the sector is still not properly prepared for coronavirus, months into the global pandemic.

Australia's aged care sector is still not properly prepared for coronavirus, and earlier federal government plans failed to address crucial shortcomings, a royal commission has heard.

Initial federal plans in February didn't consider several gaps in the sector, counsel assisting the commission Paul Rozen QC said during closing submissions on Thursday.

He said two health plan documents did not address workforce shortfalls, personal protective equipment access and a lack of infection control skills.

Mr Rozen said lessons from deadly outbreaks at Sydney's Newmarch House and Dorothy Henderson Lodge were not properly conveyed to the sector.

"As a result the sector was not properly prepared in June when we witnessed high levels of community transmission in Melbourne," he said.

The roles of the Commonwealth, NSW government and aged care providers in the state were formalised in June, Mr Rozen said, but this protocol does not appear to exist in other jurisdictions.

"This is what we mean when we say the aged care sector is still not properly prepared for COVID-19," Mr Rozen said.

"It is unacceptable that such arrangements were not in place in February. It's unforgivable that they are not in place in August.

"The virus is not a fair fighter. It doesn't wait until the bell rings."

The commission has previously heard of "dysfunctional" discussions between Newmarch House and government, particularly around whether residents should be hospitalised.

Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am.

During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons. Between 5am and 8pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative.

All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. 

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

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