More than 50 staff from across the Australian Public Service, Victorian Public Service and a number of hospitals and health services have joined the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre workforce.
The centre was established by the federal government less than two weeks ago with the task of tackling the COVID-19 outbreaks which have been wreaking havoc in Victoria’s aged care facilities.
Executive officer Joe Buffone on Tuesday said setting up the centre and responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care homes across Victoria has progressed steadily, but there’s still a long way to go to address the “complex and unprecedented situation”.
“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,” he 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.”
Staff from the federal Health and Home Affairs departments, Australian Border Force, Australian Defence Force, Aged Care and Quality Commission, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals and health services have been seconded to the centre.
Eight ADF infection control trainers are “ready to deploy” and will train aged care staff, with another 30 ADF members currently supporting the centre on the ground. Additional ADF medical personnel are set to support the centre as part of the ADF’s COVID-19 response efforts in Victoria.
The centre has so far responded to five aged care facilities that have been deemed “high-risk”, has dispatched face shields and masks to 767 aged care facilities, and has facilitated outreach phone calls via Services Australia to keep residents’ families updated.
Buffone, aged care minister Richard Colbeck, and the aged care quality and safety commissioner Janet Anderson have also attended meetings with families of residents at high-risk facilities.
Two AUSMAT teams have been deployed to high-risk facilities, including four nurses and two logisticians from Queensland, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Victoria. Nurses and health staff from South Australia have also joined the effort.
The CEOs of all major metro and regional hospitals as well as aged care provider peak bodies have been briefed by the centre “to ensure they have the support they need”.
The centre is currently working with Qantas, Virgin and Spotless to see if staff can be retrained to support aged care services.
The commissioner for senior Victorians, Gerard Mansour, on Tuesday was appointed as an advisor to the centre. He will work with advocacy groups, including Elder Rights Advocacy and the Older Persons Advocacy Network, to ensure families are properly informed about the welfare and needs of their loved ones.