The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is one week into its critical role of establishing a unified effort across every aspect of the aged care sector during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Executive Officer Joe Buffone said there has been steady progress in establishing the centre and responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care homes across Victoria.
“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.
“There will continue to be significant challenges, no more so than for aged care workers and aged care residents and their families.”
“But with the Response Centre up and running, bringing together federal and state government agencies and providing additional support on the ground in Melbourne, we’ve taken a significant step in the right direction. In just one week, the Response Centre has brought together a workforce of more than 50 staff and experts from the Australian Government Department of Health, Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, Australian Border Force, Australian Defence Force, Aged Care and Quality Commission, and a number of hospitals and health services.
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. It has also dispatched face shields and masks to 767 aged care facilities, and has deployed two AUSMAT teams to high-risk facilities, including four nurses and two logisticians from Queensland, Northern Territory, New South Wales and Victoria.
Nurses and health staff have been sourced from South Australia, and eight ADF infection control trainers are ready to deploy and train aged care staff. Another 30 ADF members are currently supporting the Response Centre on the ground. Other ADF medical personnel are ready to support the Response Centre as part of ADF assistance to COVID-19 efforts in Victoria.
The Response Centre has facilitated outreach phone calls via Services Australia to residents’ families to ensure they are kept updated, and held meetings with families of residents at high-risk facilities attended by Mr Buffone, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson.
CEOs of all major metro and regional hospitals and Aged Care Provider peak bodies have been contacted and briefed to ensure they have the support they need; and the Response Centre is working with Qantas, Virgin and Spotless to consider whether staff can be retrained to support aged care services.
“We still have a long road ahead and this is a complex and unprecedented situation but we’re taking steps in the right direction. Our critical success factor is the unifying effort of all involved,” Mr Buffone said.