AS I reflect over the past two years of the pandemic, I can only wonder how our national leaders can face the voters, look them in the eye and say "senior Australians have been a priority throughout the pandemic, noting the country has had one of the lowest level of loss of life in aged care from the pandemic". (Newcastle Herald, 12/1)
How tragic it is that the death toll is this government's yardstick for success, rather than the quality of life for every Australian senior, whether they are in residential care or receiving care in their home. They have learnt nothing.
Clearly not a student of history, smirking Scott Morrison keeps telling us there is no handbook for this pandemic, choosing to ignore the lessons from the 1918 Spanish Flu and other subsequent pandemics that have provided us with exceptional knowledge and shared health experience. The handbook has been written many times over.
As we sit in the southern hemisphere as an island nation, we have had the benefit of watching each stage of the pandemic play out in real time in many nations before it reaches our shores. How is it they still do not know what to do and still refuse to learn? How is it that our federal and NSW governments think it is okay to disregard every vulnerable person in our society for the sake of the economy? When has it been best practice to prioritise the economy over genuine apolitical health imperatives during what is clearly a health pandemic?
I am aware that nearly 500 aged care facilities are dealing with COVID outbreaks, with at least 1400 residents and around 2000 staff infected, and thousands more elderly residents forced into isolation. Only now is Mr Morrison is seeking advice on how to maximise the workforce because of the rising number of workers being furloughed.
It is evident that the notion of a sustainable, on-hand 'surge' workforce is a pipedream. Yet I know that this issue has been raised with the aged care minister, and the health department by aged care peak bodies and individual CEOs, offering practical solutions which continue to fall on deaf ears.
After all, these politicians and bureaucrats believe they know best, although most politicians and their minders may never have set foot in an aged care facility except to cut a ribbon or have their name put on a plaque to say they were there. They don't care about the critical failures of our aged care system because it's easier to blame the provider for not being able to meet the beat-up expectations that the government demands, but refuses to appropriately fund.
The aged care royal commission entitled "Neglect" identified a system in crises, and as is their way, this government sort to deflect real responsibility for improved care by announcing a $17.8 billion funding package over the next five years to patch the brokenness of the sector.
What the public was not told that to date not a cent has come to the bedside where that neglect is alleged to have occurred.
This pandemic has only magnified the trouble we are in as a sector, in fact it only reassures us that regardless of fancy political rhetoric, older Australians remain undervalued and at the bottom of the political priority pile. What has our society, the nation of 'the fair go', come to where we say it's okay to measure success by a death toll of older people in care. Transparency doesn't exist anymore, denial is the order of the day.
Yet the fruit of this approach is profoundly underpaid yet committed and utterly fatigued workforce.
There is no support coming over the horizon, there is no relief in sight. Our workforce are literally in the trenches in full PPE armour in humid summer conditions, working double shifts and in many circumstances without a full team.
There is no support coming over the horizon, there is no relief in sight. Our workforce are literally in the trenches in full PPE armour in humid summer conditions, working double shifts
Each one grieves the loss of freedoms that those in their care once enjoyed, no one wants to be the one to bring COVID into their workplace but the system of testing and reporting has failed them, leaving them and their organisations anxious and desperate to avoid an outbreak and further lockdowns.
Oh, but wait - everyone is fully vaccinated and the Prime Minster has promised them a booster. Another debacle, more faded promises as thousands of aged care workers compete with the rest of the population in queues and clinics trying to get their jab, their previous Priority 1A categorisation just a fleeting memory.
As for residents the same story, they only make the priority list for the headlines or a photoshoot but, vulnerability doesn't matter, because the politicians can keep blaming failures in care on those wicked providers.
We are at war but with a different enemy. I can only ask when will the war crimes tribunal begins because someone must be accountable.
Viv Allanson is the chief executive officer at Maroba Aged Care at Waratah
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