Sunday, July 21, 2024

A/Chief Medical Officer defends aged care death toll

In what will be seen by some as a tone deaf rebuttal of Australia’s COVID-19 aged care death toll, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly has compared the sector’s fatality rate against US and UK figures at a press conference this afternoon.

“I’ve seen reporting in the media in relation to Australia and death rates in aged care facilities,” Prof Kelly began.

“It’s a terrible tragedy to lose a loved one wherever that may be and including in aged care facilities.”

“But, for example, in the US where they’ve had over five million cases now, there have been over 50,000 deaths in relation to aged care. In the UK, 16,000 deaths. In Australia there are 220. So I think people can make their own comparison and their own decisions there about whether we are the worst in the world when you see those sorts of figures.

“I would say we’ve had so few deaths, our death rate within the total of 21,000 cases we’ve had is extremely low – there have been very few cases outside of aged care,” he continued.

“When you look at the age of people that have died, the average is well over 80 and many people into their 90s.

“It’s a tragedy to lose a loved one but really there have been very few deaths in comparison to other countries.”

Dr Kelly began the media briefing with a response to allegations from the Aged Care Royal Commission yesterday that the Federal Government had insufficient pandemic plans in place in relation to the aged care sector. 

This assertion, he said, was “not correct”.

“We have been planning for our aged population as a vulnerable group since the beginning of our planning in relation to COVID-19,” said Prof Kelly.

“The first reports out of China in January, which led to the formulation of the Australian health sector emergency response plan for novel coronavirus, which is here, and was launched by the Prime Minister in early February, makes very specific mention of those vulnerable groups and specific mention that there would need to be specific plans in relation to aged care.

“On 13 March, well before we launched into our first wave and the first aged care outbreaks that we saw in New South Wales, the communicable disease network of Australia, which is a subcommittee of the AHPPC, did develop specific guidelines for residential aged care, quite detailed guidelines about what needs to happen both to prepare, to prevent and to respond to outbreaks in aged care facilities.

“So that has been used in the beginning and has been updated twice since then, the latest one on the 14th of July.

“We’ve had a whole plethora of other documents that I won’t go into. Certainly we’ve had a lot of planning in relation to aged care.”

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