Crisis? What crisis?

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck says the aged care sector is not in crisis.

Despite more than 560 aged care deaths – and rising – from COVID-19 since Omicron hit in November last year, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck says the sector is not in crisis.

While appearing before a Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 on Tuesday 2 January, Mr Colbeck was asked whether he accepted that the aged care sector was in complete crisis, Mr Colbeck replied: “No, I don’t accept it is in complete crisis.”

Coming in the wake of an overwhelming number of deaths and infections, staff shortages, lockdowns and low morale, Mr Colbeck’s remark caused uproar and prompted calls from Labor for him to resign.

“Today I’m angry,” said Labor leader Anthony Albanese. “I’m angry because I’ve spoken to the families of aged care residents who’ve had enough. Richard Colbeck must resign today. If he doesn’t resign today the Prime Minister should sack him.”

Meanwhile, the United Workers Union posted on Twitter: “What does the aged care minister do when finally called to account about 471 deaths in aged care this year? He denies there is a crisis.”

Mr Colbeck’s denial of a crisis flies in the face of a recent barrage of press stories reporting that Omicron has spread “like wildfire in aged care homes”. Workers are “pushed to the edge” as providers face “dire staff shortages”; a lack of rapid antigen tests is placing “huge amounts of stress on staff”; workers are “really tired, overworked, and struggling to get proper personal protective equipment”; staff are “anxious and overwhelmed” as “critical staff shortages are placing the wellbeing of residents at risk”.

Last Friday’s weekly health department report shows there are 23,900 active cases of COVID-19 among residents (9,643 cases) and staff (14,257) across 1,261 aged care facilities.

Richard Colbeck

Speaking earlier this week to Australian Ageing Agenda, spokesperson for aged care provider peak body coalition Australian Aged Care Collaboration Sean Rooney said there was “a real sense of crisis” from management and workers on the ground.

Last month, providers, peak bodies and unions requested that the Australian Defence Force be brought in to assist the residential aged care sector and alleviate the stress on the struggling workforce.

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Tags: anthony albanese, covid, featured, Richard Colbeck, Sean Rooney, senate commitee, United Workers Union,

8 thoughts on “Crisis? What crisis?

  1. The elderly are as usual not considered worthy of attention or care. They’re unproductive, a drain on the economy and as such dispensable. Shame on you Minister Colbeck. Stand down.

  2. What an absolute denial of responsibility and shameful inaction on the part of Minister Colbeck. The sector is absolutely in crisis, not only in aged care homes but also in community aged care. There are staff shortages, no timely services, absurd waiting times and a crisis of COVID on top of an already broken system. What is occurring in aged care facilities is an abject violation of the Aged Care Charter and right to safe and quality care. In the UN Decade of Healthy Aging, Australia has a very long way to go

  3. What is happening in residential aged care is outrageous and such a demonstration of the federal government’s response to our Community and Family elders. What is worst about it all is that it just keeps on repeating and nothing is really learnt from the previous 2 years of experience. Where is the reflection, review, action, monitoring? Shame, Shame and more Shame on Government.

  4. Forcing old people to make so many sacrifices, keeping them in their rooms isolated, feeling lonely, throwing them into depression has not worked has it? Shame on our insensitive heartless politicians.

  5. Could Mr Colbeck explain what a crisis is then. The staff, residents and families in Aged Care must have a different understanding.

  6. I am in aged care I have had all my shots. We have COVID-19 here and have been confined in our rooms. The staff here are doing the best they can but every day I see a new carer. We are lucky the management here are doing their best to keep things as normal as possible, but it is hard to do when the place is understaffed. I had a test the other day for the rotten disease and I tested negative negative. Today I went to the chemist and luckily picked up a five-pack test kit.

  7. Evidence of a politician holding a portfolio with absolutely no idea about the people he is “supposed” to be representing. Richard Colbreck you have clearly demonstrated you have no idea what you’re talking about in saying there isnt a crisis in aged care. It’s been in crisis for a long time which is why there was a Royal Commission. Covid has demonstrated this crisis even more. Have you ever taken the time to visit facilities to speak to residents or staff doing their best to care for them under difficult circumstances? Your comments are insulting to the whole aged care sector. You definitely need to step down and go!

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