The Federal Government has announced an additional $171 million for its pandemic aged care response package.

It brings the commonwealth’s total investment since the coronavirus pandemic started to more than $1 billion, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

The additional funding includes $9.1 million to support the further operations of the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC) and $103.4 million to support the response including emergency call centre surge capability for communication with families, surge workforce support, training for new workers and quarantine costs for interstate healthcare workers,

Scott Morrison

“These are things that we have already been doing and we are going to need to be doing them for much longer and further resource and support will be necessary,” Mr Morrison told the press conference.

The new funding also includes $50.6 million for the second instalment of aged care retention bonus in September, which is limited to direct care workers only, and an additional $9 million for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to support ongoing regulation of the sector.

Mr Morrison also announced that agreement was reached at today’s National Cabinet meeting about how the states and territories could implement a similar entity to the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre if needed.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said they all hoped a centre like the VACRC would not have to be replicated elsewhere but that they now “have a blueprint if needed.”

He said they also have a renewed commitment from the Commonwealth for states and territories to work closely together on prevention and preparation.

PM asked about his confidence in Colbeck

Elsewhere at the press conference, Mr Morrison defended Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck in response to a question about whether he had confidence in him and whether he should be sacked.

The question came in response to Mr Colbeck’s grilling at a senate committee hearing earlier today where he was unable provide figures including about the number of COVID-positive aged care residents and related deaths.

“I do have confidence,” Mr Morrison said, adding that Mr Colbeck’s is directly responsible for ensuring that the more than $1 billion in funding has been committed to the sector during the pandemic.

Gov’t grilled on preparedness

Mr Morrison, Professor Kelly and Mr Colbeck were all questioned today about the entire staff of St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner having to take leave isolate in July.

At the time, the Prime Minister called the situation unprecedented, which he, Mr Colbeck and Professor Kelly repeated today.

Mr Colbeck told the committee they had not anticipated at any time that everyone who worked at the facility would be out at the same time.

Richard Colbeck at Friday’s sentate committee hearing

The senate committee asked him whether the government should have foreseen such as scenario, because of a report on the outbreak at Baptistcare’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge that highlighted issues in maintaining adequate staff and health department advice to providers in June warning about the potential risk of losing 80 – 100 per cent of staff if an outbreak occurred.

At today’s press conference, Mr Morrison said his remark about the situation being unprecedented referred the immediate full removal of a workforce without notice.

“And that was not a scenario that had been contemplated. That was the situation that was presented in a number of cases, but I can tell you what they did, they moved heaven and earth to get people there as quickly as possible,” Mr Morrison said.

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