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The Australian government has begun releasing a weekly snapshot of Covid-19 deaths and infections in aged care homes, despite earlier attempting to keep secret the identity of providers with fewer than five cases.
The health department secretary, Brendan Murphy, had previously asked the Senate’s Covid-19 committee not to publish a full list of providers with outbreaks, claiming publication of the data could distract from care and discourage staff from attending work.
The first snapshot, published on Saturday, contains the names of 115 aged care providers with two or more cases of Covid-19, but still omits the names of a further 98 providers with just one case.
It reveals there are 83 active outbreaks in aged care, with 454 active resident cases and 166 staff cases. A further 130 providers have had their outbreaks “resolved”. A total of 508 people have died of Covid-19 in Australian aged care facilities.
The federal government has been at odds with the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, about responsibility for outbreaks in aged care. Damaging leaks have highlighted the prevalence of the virus, including Guardian Australia’s revelation that four out of every 10 Victorian aged-care deaths due to coronavirus occurred across just 10 facilities.
On 4 August the Greens senator Rachel Siewert asked the health department on notice to provide a list of all the current outbreaks of Covid-19 in residential aged care facilities in Victoria.
On 20 August, Murphy replied that although residents and their families were advised of any cases in their facility, the department’s preference was “not to disclose information about individual services”.
“Publication of the names and sites of aged care services affected by Covid-19 has resulted in significant media attention and distress for families of residents,” he said.
“It distracts services from their primary response to an outbreak, diverts needed resources and in some circumstances has contributed to a reluctance of staff to come to work, negatively impacting the capacity of the service to provide quality care.”
Murphy said some centres might have only one member of staff infected, which does “not constitute an outbreak in the generally understood meaning of the term”. He asked the committee not to publish the names of providers with between one and five cases.
On 8 September the chair of the committee, Labor’s Katy Gallagher, wrote back indicating the committee would publish the information but offering the department a chance to add “additional commentary to accompany the list of facilities” to ease its concerns.
“[The committee] believes that access to timely information regarding Covid-19 outbreaks in residential aged care services is in the public interest,” Gallagher said. She asked for an updated table by Monday for publication on Tuesday.
Murphy wrote back to say the government had begun publishing the statistics for all providers with more than one positive case. Although the department “remains concerned about the effect that public disclosure of this information may have on facilities, their staff and residents, it recognises this must be balanced with public interest in providing transparency for residents and families”, he said.
The snapshot shows four outbreaks in New South Wales aged care centres – including Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House – and one in Tasmania, all of which have been resolved.
The remaining 110 centres with two or more cases are all in Victoria. Some 37 aged care providers on the list had no residents infected, only staff.
The list reveals the identity of 18 providers with at least one resident infected but five or fewer total infections.
The federal government has argued that outbreaks in aged care are a function of the second coronavirus wave in Victoria. Andrews has responded by noting very few cases are in state government-run facilities, highlighting that aged care is a federal responsibility.
The aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, said the report “provides greater transparency for residents and their families around the situation in aged care facilities”.
“It shows that of the 2,706 aged care facilities in Australia, 213 – or 8% – have had cases of Covid-19.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Aged care homes with multiple Covid cases named on list published by federal government | Aged care (Australia)