Former aged care peak body CEO Gerard Mansour has been appointed an advisor to the week-old Commonwealth-led centre responding to the worst coronavirus outbreaks at Victorian aged care facilities.

Mr Mansour, who is Commissioner for Senior Victorians, will work alongside advocacy groups and the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre to ensure families are kept informed about the welfare and care needs of loved ones and available support services.

Federal Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck and Victoria’s Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Luke Donnellan announced Mr Mansour’s appointment on Tuesday.

They said his advice would be invaluable to the collective efforts underway including at the response centre to support aged care residents and their families.

The VACRC was established last week at the State Control Centre in Melbourne as a joint Commonwealth and state initiative to co-ordinate and expand resources across the two governments to tackle the challenge of COVID-19 in aged care services (see more below).

Gerard Mansour

Mr Mansour, who was appointed Victoria’s first Commissioner for Senior Victorians in September 2013, was also the inaugural chief executive of Leading Age Services Australia when it launched in mid 2012.

At the VACRC, Mr Mansour will provide advice for engaging with families of residents in severely COVID-19 impacted aged care facilities and assist with communication and ongoing feedback to advocacy groups and the VACRC.

He will also help promote further prevention measures with staff working in COVID-free aged care facilities and engage with the Victorian Multicultural Commission to ensure appropriate supports for  families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“I understand just how challenging it is for so many families. It is vital that residents and families receive appropriate and timely communications,” Mr Mansour said in a statement.

Centre supporting 5 facilities

On Tuesday, the state goverment reported there were 1,186 active cases in Victorian aged care facilities and 11 new deaths among aged care residents overnight.

More than 880 Victorian aged care residents have tested positive to coronavirus and at least 125 of those infected have died since July and as of Tuesday, Federal Government data shows.

There are four aged care homes linked to more than 100 positive cases among residents and staff, and 10 homes linked to more than 50 cases

Also on Tuesday, VACRC executive officer Joe Buffone said there had been steady progress in establishing the centre and responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care homes across Victoria over the last week.

In this time, the response centre has responded to five aged care facilities that had reached a high-risk category and could no longer guarantee continuity of care, he said.

Joe Buffone

“Our first week in operation has been one of the most challenging in Victoria’s history, but a tremendous amount of work is underway to respond as rapidly as possible to immediate and emerging challenges,” Mr Buffone said in statement.

“There will continue to be significant challenges, no more so than for aged care workers and aged care residents and their families.”

To date, the response centre reported it has:

  • brought together a workforce of more than 50 staff and experts from the Australian and Victorian health departments, Department of Home Affairs, Border Force and Defence Force, Aged Care and Quality Commission, and hospitals and health services
  • dispatched face shields and masks to 767 aged care facilities
  • deployed two AUSMAT teams to high-risk facilities, including four nurses and two logisticians from Victoria and interstate
  • sourced nurses and health staff from South Australia
  • readied eight ADF infection control trainers to deploy and train aged care staff
  • contacted CEOs of all major metro and regional hospitals and aged care provider peak bodies to brief and ensure they have the support they need.

The centre is also working with Qantas, Virgin and Spotless to consider whether staff can be retrained to support aged care services.

Mr Buffone said there was still a long road ahead because it was a complex and unprecedented situation.

“Our critical success factor is the unifying effort of all involved.”

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