10 August 2020

Having previously identified neoliberal reforms as the cause of ongoing problems in the sector, the Aged Care Royal Commission is now turning to the unfolding coronavirus disaster. In the month since 9 July, more than 1000 residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and of Australia’s 290 deaths, two thirds were aged care residents. Reflecting on these statistics today, the Commission’s lawyer said: “It is the system operating as it was designed to operate. We should not be surprised at the results.” He said the appalling death rate “starkly exposed all of the flaws of the aged care sector which have been highlighted during this royal commission”. The Morrison Government’s hands-off approach to regulation was singled out for attention: “the evidence will reveal that neither the Commonwealth Department of Health nor the aged care regulator developed a COVID-19 plan specifically for the aged care sector. … There was no advice about how the sector should respond to the risk posed by aged care workers who may be COVID-19 positive yet asymptomatic, particularly those who work in multiple facilities. … The regulator did not have an appropriate aged care sector COVID-19 response plan. Given that it was widely understood that recipients of aged care services were a high risk group, this seems surprising.”