Lack of preparation blamed for aged care virus deaths

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AGED CARE

Lack of preparation blamed for virus deaths

The federal government failed to prepare the aged-care sector for the pandemic. In Victoria, 655 (82 per cent) of the 801 people who died during the second wave were residents in private aged care homes. The Prime Minister, Health Minister and the regulator need to explain to all of us exactly how this heart-breaking tragedy – which many of us predicted – occurred on their watch.
Dr Sarah Russell, director, Aged Care Matters

Lack of qualified staff raises probability of neglect
Given the dearth of qualified staff to meet their basic physical and medical needs I don’t find it at all hard to believe that four in 10 aged care residents have experienced neglect (‘‘Elder abuse ‘high’ in aged care’’, 22/12).

As a retired aged care nurse, I observed so often the palpable sense of powerlessness and loneliness that is suffered by many in the frail aged population, which I am sure was never more apparent than during these past months of isolation.
Glenda Addicott, Ringwood East

Victorian government held to a different standard
The Commonwealth is responsible for the failings in both aged care and quarantine. Most deaths were in private for- profit aged care.

Now we’re told that air flow in hotels was moving the virus from hotel rooms to corridors and public areas, but only in Sydney it seems. This was never proffered as a possible reason here. Why is Victoria and the Victorian Labor government held to a different standard than the federal and NSW Liberal governments? Mmm, not hard to work out.
Judy Loney, Drumcondra

Timing of report’s release questioned
How mischievous of the Morrison government to release its report on the aged care sector the same day as the Coate report was released (‘‘Probe reveals care home failings’’, 22/12). For the findings of the independent report of the outbreaks at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged and Heritage Care’s Epping Gardens which contributed to many of the deaths recorded in Victoria, should have drawn as much exposure as possible to the failings of the Morrison government in its handling of COVID-19. The report was as damaging of the government’s handling of the crisis as the Coate report, yet because of the timing of its release, it escapes the public scrutiny it deserves.
John Tingiri, Mornington

Radical structural shake-up must happen
It is likely the Coalition will sit on the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety for many months after it is released in February and then it is likely they will only make cosmetic changes to the existing system. This is not acceptable as there needs to be radical structural shake-up. One statistic alone demonstrates that private for-profit establishments are largely failing to provide the level of care we all expect.

In Victoria, the death tally from COVID-19, primarily occurred in privately run facilities. The neo-liberal economic philosophy that dominates Liberal Party thinking, places profit before people and is prevalent in the running of the majority of private aged-care facilities.
David Orr, Croydon

More scrutiny of Commonwealth required
It is a pity the journalistic blowtorch has not been applied to the aged-care report as it has to that of hotel quarantine. A total of 655 COVID-19 deaths in Commonwealth aged-care homes in Victoria and hardly a whimper.
Arthur Pritchard, Ascot Vale

Time for self-management of home care packages
To have a home care package is of great benefit, but to have a large slice taken by a provider to manage or mismanage on your behalf is not. A simple request can take weeks even months to be resolved. Monthly statements are often incorrect and are months in arrears.

It is hoped that self management of home care packages will be recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Pauline Duncan, Maffra

THE FORUM

Role of defence
Surely, by definition, the job of the Defence Force, is to defend Australia, and Australians? Has there ever been a greater threat to defend us against than that posed by COVID-19?

Why then do they claim border control is law enforcement, and not their role? I would have thought it’s precisely their role.
Mick Hamilton, Carnegie

Timely work for humanity
There is indeed an alternative, Jack Coffey (Letters, 23/12), to indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers. It was used by the Fraser government in the 1980s in the case of Vietnamese refugees, and involves working with other wealthy nations, neighbouring countries and international agencies to quickly process asylum seekers in the countries to which they first flee.

Such timely processing on a globally co-operative basis ensures that people fleeing persecution, violence and warfare are able to rebuild their lives quickly in countries offering safe haven, and eliminates the demand for dangerous boat journeys from countries such as Indonesia because people do not have to wait for long periods to be processed.

Unlike the current approach, this proven alternative also accords with international human rights and refugee laws.
Andrew Trembath, Blackburn

Reform crucial
That the Coate inquiry found no one accountable for the decision to use private security contractors for hotel quarantine is neither a disappointment nor a waste of time. The finding tells us that Victoria’s governance of the coronavirus outbreak was flawed and that, unless it is corrected, we will face future disasters.

The on-the-run adjustments the Andrews government made to its governance during the course of the outbreak do not satisfy me that it has overcome the exposed flaws. The Premier’s apologies, agreement to implement all Coate’s recommendations and the resignations of a minister and
two public service departmental secretaries do not satisfy me either.

What is needed now is a governance and public service reform program that is capable and accountable, transparent and able to be scrutinised and reports regularly including mistakes and failures. These reforms should be the single most important work of the government over the next year.
Michael Angwin, Surrey Hills

Quarantine offshore
Wouldn’t our offshore detention/processing centres on Manus Island or Nauru make ideal COVID-19 quarantine centres for Australians returning from overseas? If these were good enough to house traumatised, vulnerable refugee families, surely they are good enough for Australians. Or is there an error in this logic somewhere?
Geoff Phillips, Wonga Park

Systemic underpayment
Reports (‘‘Probes on dirty trams, ‘underpaid’ cleaners’’, 23/12) of a tram-cleaning company allegedly underpaying its workers points to underpayment as the rule rather than the exception. Beginning with 7-Eleven a few years ago, this situation has become systemic throughout the economy.

Looked at systemically, it is clear that the employer/employee balance has shifted seriously towards employers since the LNP returned to power. Part of this shift is reflected in a constant push for lower wages and more insecure employment conditions. It is also backed up by the federal government’s new IR bill, which will tilt the field more to the employers’ side, and the proposed tax cuts designed to benefit the very wealthy most of all.

Demand for goods is created by the disposable income needed to buy them and with a constantly decreasing income stream, this demand falls away, producing recessionary conditions. In the long-term, underpayment of workers is short-sighted and counterproductive.
Greg Bailey, St Andrews

Solution on our doorstep
When I was on the board of the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in 1980, a special building was constructed to house a boat load of people who arrived with an infectious disease problem. Jeff Kennett then closed the Fairfield hospital and the building was lost.
How good would it be today if we still had the Fairfield hospital to use instead of quarantining people in hotels.
John Patterson, Williamstown

Post transparency
The inquiry into the expenses culture at Australia Post, triggered by a few Cartier watch gifts to senior executives, must have unearthed evidence of much more serious dysfunction or worse, for the Morrison government to refuse to release its findings. This is despite Communications Minister Paul Fletcher indicating last month that it would be made public (‘‘Cartier report to stay under wraps’’, 22/12).

The government has no right to deny transparency, the very foundation of democracy, in order to conceal embarrassing evidence. Transparency is a core imperative, not an optional extra for when it suits the government.

Such arrogance in treating its people, and democracy itself, with contempt is galling. But then, cynical politicians understand that, unfortunately and tragically, too many voters are prepared to forgive such erosion of something so precious in exchange for a few crumbs thrown at their feet at election time.
Joe Di Stefano, Geelong

Vale Jim Graham
Vale Jim Graham, my favourite newsreader. So sad to learn you have died so young. I will miss the tones of your beautiful, reassuring, baritone voice.

Even when the news was bleak, somehow it didn’t seem so bad.
My condolences to your family.
Ros de Bruin, Balwyn

COVID crush
Some say Christmas could be a ‘‘super-spreader event’’. Any one who has been in a major shopping complex will have witnessed that super-spreader activity has already begun.
At least a quarter of people are totally without face masks and there are the usual ‘‘face mask as chin accoutrement’’ crowd.

Perhaps their Christmas present to family and friends will be the gift of COVID-19 – acquired while crammed into the frantic pre-Christmas crush.

Then again, if they missed out on a COVID-19 bargain during their unmasked Christmas shopping, there’s always the even more crammed and frenetic Boxing Day opportunity.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East

Tennis too great a risk
No matter what, risking the lives and welfare of Victorians with a third lockdown is a risk too great to bear. We, the Victorian public, have lost our lifestyle, our financial security and will be fighting for years to recover and pay back money we have used to support businesses and our employees.

The well is now pretty dry and I don’t think small business, big business or government can afford to risk it all for another round of tennis. There are new strains of the virus already on the loose in the UK and probably Europe, and the intention to bring players and support to Melbourne is ridiculous.

There have been rules put in place to control activities but we have already learnt that it only needs one undisciplined action, one piece of youthful stupidity and BANG! Another lockdown.

No, it’s not worth the risk, and remember overseas visitors have less to lose than Melburnians do.
David Clarke, Box Hill South

Entertaining all
At the end of an annus horribilis for the whole world, can I pay tribute to my fellow Letters correspondents who have, throughout the year, again provided wit, wisdom, criticism, charm and praise; sometimes foolish commentary or unwise advice; but almost invariably entertainment. Which is why Letters are the first section of The Age I turn to. May I wish them and all of your readers a very Merry Christmas and a much, much happier 2021. May it be our annus mirabilis.
Peter Price, Southbank

Time for compassion
After the year we have had, and the continuing pandemic, many Australians have now experienced a first-hand taste of losing their freedom and being confined. Many now understand the effect this can have on a person’s mental health.

With Christmas upon us, surely it is time to show some compassion to the refugees and asylum seekers locked up in the Park Hotel in Carlton, and the family from Biloela locked up on Christmas Island. To lock up innocent people indefinitely is immoral and illegal.

The federal government cannot justify this cruelty. These people need to be released.
Sue Lyons, Carlton North

Federal ICAC needed
Why has the Morrison government refused to release the findings of its inquiry into the expenses culture at Australia Post? The obvious conclusion is that the report may contain criticisms of the Morrison government.

Yet another reason why we so urgently need a well-resourced federal Independent Commission Against Corruption with big teeth.
Grant Nichol, North Ringwood

In the slow lane
Scott Morrison has received an award from America’s failed President, a leader who has spurned his country’s long-term allies in favour of dictators.

The Legion of Merit award mentions, among other things, Morrison’s success in promoting global security and addressing global challenges.

With ScoMo adopting Trump’s aggressive anti-China stance, only woe and increased danger has followed for Australia. With regard to the greatest long term global challenge – climate change – our Prime Minister is still in denial. He is crawling along the slow lane while most other countries are zooming ahead.

This award is meaningless and most Australians will see it as such.
Peter Barry, Marysville

AND ANOTHER THING …

Credit:

Legion of Merit award
They say that you judge a man by the company he keeps. Trump awards Morrison a prestigious military decoration. Enough said.
Geoff Wigg, Surrey Hills

Trump’s deputy sheriff has finally got his badge.
Barbara Lynch, South Yarra

Wow! Donald Trump has awarded ScoMo a big gold medal for leadership in addressing global challenges. I wonder when he’ll wear it?
Margaret Ady, Avondale Heights

Politics
Andrews should resign over the quarantine debacle. Then go into Federal politics and give Labor some leadership with backbone.
Bill Trestrail, St Kilda

I will be watching with interest to see if Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of NSW, orders ADF troops to assist ‘‘gold standard Gladys’’ with her increasing COVID-19 outbreak.
John Cain, McCrae

Maybe Dan had a sniff about the lack of ADF availability during hotel quarantine. Now Victoria needs them for border closures, ScoMo seems to be keeping them for his pin up girl Gladys.
Eric Kopp, Flinders

Letters hoping Gladys slips up then makes Dan who failed look acceptable, really? Unfortunately for these writers Gladys and her team of contact tracers and testers are on the job.
Murray Horne, Cressy

Christmas
After the distress and challenges of 2020 this Christmas will be special: seeing loved ones, choirs, mince pies and mangoes should lift our exhausted spirits.
Mary Cole, Richmond

There’s always Christmas in July.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood

The COVID-19 lockdown period felt more spiritual and peaceful than the time now leading up to Christmas.
Ivan Gaal, Fitzroy North

Finally
If Jennifer Coate or Deborah Glass ever choose to run for Parliament, they have my vote.
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill


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