Victorian nurses are calling for the federal aged care minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, to resign for his failure to take responsibility for vaccinating workers in aged care.
Lisa Fitzpatrick, the secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s Victoria branch said the federal government must come clean about their private aged care vaccination contracts.
“It’s like their promise to vaccine the aged care workforce through an in-reach program in the facilities never, ever existed,” she said.
“Was it only ever a vaccine-dregs-for-staff arrangement?”
In senate estimates on Tuesday, Colbeck was unable to say how many aged care workers had been vaccinated and went as far to say the rollout in aged care was a “joint responsibility” with the states.
“We have been working with the sector and the unions to ensure that we have access to the data,” Colbeck said. “And as workers are progressively vaccinated, that reporting data will come to us via the aged care providers.”
Labor Senator Katy Gallagher pressed Colbeck on the issue.
“Just tell me, are you responsible, yes or no?” she said.
“Well it’s not a yes or no answer senator, and you know that,” Colbeck replied.
Months ago, the federal government told Australians that residents in aged care and aged care workers were top priority for vaccination.
It was revealed in senate estimates that less than 10 per cent of 236,00 aged care workers have received both doses of a vaccine through federal visits to aged care facilities. An accurate number of the total number of aged care works vaccinated through other means is unknown.
Lisa Fitzpatrick said the government shouldn’t “blame staff for not being vaccinated when you never told them you had no intention to vaccinate them at their workplace”.
“The royal commission revealed the private aged care system was in crisis before the pandemic,” Fitzpatrick said. “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. We need a minister who gets things done with a sense of urgency, care and respect for the residents and their dedicated staff.”
Fitzpatrick has also said that since the beginning of the rollout, staff in aged care had only received vaccinations if there were leftovers, after residents had received theirs.
Australia has had 910 people die from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, 685 of these people were aged care residents. Most of the outbreaks in aged care have been started from staff who do not realise they are infected.