The Chair of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has issued a statement to clarify public expectations of the Commission’s inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia’s aged care facilities, saying the issues associated with the impact of the virus warranted a separate inquiry.
Tony Pagone QC, a former Federal and Supreme Court judge, said the impact of the virus on the aged care sector was a national tragedy that was unfolding daily.
“It is important for the public to understand that this Royal Commission is not able, and is not intending, to conduct a full inquiry into that impact,” Commissioner Pagone said in a statement.
“We simply do not have the resources or time to conduct an inquiry that would do justice to the issues which have arisen so far and continue to change and develop.”
He said the issues associated with the impacts of COVID-19 in aged care warranted an inquiry of their own.
“A telling illustration of the human tragedy and the changing circumstances is the situation in Victoria. At the beginning of July there had been no COVID-19 related deaths associated with residential aged care in Victoria. There were two active cases and six recoveries. By 29 July, there were 440 active cases and 47 deaths. Only three residents have recovered. The first death did not occur until 11 July.”
He said much had changed since the announcement on 14 May that the Royal Commission would inquire into certain issues arising from the responses of the sector and the government to COVID-19 with a focus on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 response.
“Our present inquiry, over about three days of hearing commencing on 10 August, will look at lessons to be learnt about the level of preparedness for a major infectious disease outbreak in aged care and whether the human response to COVID-19 balanced appropriately the needs of all of those affected.”
“Our inquiries may reveal, as seems likely, that there needs to be a fuller and more forensic inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 in aged care.
“Such an inquiry would need adequate time and resources extending beyond the time frame available to us. It will be for government to determine if such an inquiry is to be undertaken.”