Aged care providers can start reporting the number of staff vaccinated against COVID-19 from Friday but will be forced to do it after new legislation has been passed, a Senate committee hearing heard this week.
However, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt told a press conference after National Cabinet on Friday afternoon that providers will have to report staff vaccination numbers from 15 June.
The Community Affairs Legislation Committee held two Senate Estimate hearings this week into the health and aged care sector.
It heard that that aged care providers will be able voluntarily report the number of staff who have received a COVID-19 vaccine through a new portal from Friday.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck said the initiative will allow the government to report staff vaccination data alongside the current daily reporting with respect to residents.
“That will give us much better data consolidated from the providers themselves, who will be required to report it to us alongside information for, for example, flu vaccinations,” Mr Colbeck told the Senate Estimates on Wednesday.
In response to a question from Senator Rachel Siewert as to whether the government needed to bring in legislation to mandate the reporting, Mr Colbeck said “it will require some legislation to make it compulsory”.
Department of Health deputy secretary Michael Lye told the hearing the implementation of mandatory reporting will be staged.
“It’ll start with residential care first, and then it’ll come online for home care, but both will be able to put their data in from Friday,” Mr Lye said.
However, Mr Hunt provided an update at Friday afternoon’s press conference, following consultations with the aged care sector.
“Overnight I have taken the decision, which has been done in consultation with the aged care sector, to make mandatory from 15 June the reporting of all aged care worker vaccinations,” Mr Hunt said.
“Aged care workers can also be vaccinated outside of the facilities, so we have asked all facilities to step forward and it will be mandatory for them, where an aged care worker has been vaccinated outside of that facility to provide that information so we have a full accounting of every facility for every aged care worker,” he said.
Australian Ageing Agenda has sought more information on the portal and how providers are expected to report.
Less than 10 per cent of workforce vaccinated
In a senate estimate hearing on Tuesday, the committee heard that around 32,000 of the nation’s 360,000 aged care workers have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
This falls short of the government’s original target of reaching 339,000 aged care staff in the first six weeks of the rollout, which commenced on 22 February.
Department of Health secretary Dr Brendan Murphy told the committee on Wednesday the only data available on staff vaccination rates was from the Federal Government’s in-reach vaccination clinics.
“We know that there are several other avenues of vaccination. We believe that the data [on staff vaccination numbers is] a significant underreporting because we know that aged care worker have been going to GPs, Pfizer clinics and pop-up clinics,” Dr Murphy told the committee.
Dr Murphy backed the portal and the data it would provide on staff vaccinations.
“We will get good data through this portal on residential aged care workers. I believe that there’s significantly more than 10 per cent of residential aged care workers have been vaccinated,” he said.
This story was published on Friday morning and updated on Friday afternoon.