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The operator of an unvaccinated Melbourne aged care home has been left “flabbergasted” by comments from aged care minister Richard Colbeck after he claimed those not yet vaccinated “have chosen not to take the jab”.
As the Victorian government announced its fourth lockdown on Thursday, there were 29 aged care facilities in the state that had not yet received their first dose of the Covid vaccine, while 208 facilities had received just one dose. Hours later, the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, revealed the number yet to receive their first doses had shrunk to 16 homes since yesterday’s figures.
On Thursday morning, Colbeck, when asked by Channel Nine how he’d feel if he was a resident in a home that hadn’t received a first dose yet, suggested that some of the facilities had chosen to delay their rollouts.
“Some of them have chosen not to take the jab, which is I find a little disappointing, but it’s been their choice,” Colbeck said.
Colbeck later said he was “very comfortable” with vaccination rates in aged care, noting the homes yet to receive a single dose “were programmed to be done this week or next week, so we’ll get those finalised as quickly as we can”.
However operators of unvaccinated aged care facilities in Melbourne have challenged Colbeck’s claim that they opted not to receive the vaccine.
First-dose vaccinations were scheduled for Jewish Care’s aged care facility in Windsor, in Melbourne’s inner south, on 11 May.
The doses were to be administered by a mobile Health Care Australia team, however the vaccinations were cancelled on the morning they were set to begin, after one of the Health Care Australia team member’s fell ill. They have since been rescheduled for next month.
In a correspondence to residents and their families, Jewish Care said “Health Care Australia were unable to replace the team leader and following safety protocols were left with no option but to cancel at the last minute”.
Abe Schwarz, whose 92-year-old mother is a resident at the Windsor home, was furious at the suggestion she did not want a vaccine.
“When I heard that the responsible minister suggested that my mum and others were not getting the jab because it was their choice, I was flabbergasted,” Schwarz.
Schwarz said he had prepared his mother for the vaccine, and said he was “aghast” when he received an email informing him at 8am that the vaccinations scheduled to begin at 9am had been cancelled.
His mother, who has dementia, contracted Covid last year in the home, but recovered.
He is now worried the unvaccinated state of the home will cause further visitation delays beyond the initial terms of the lockdown.
“I will be so upset, as would any other caring family, if the government stuff up one hour before the vaccinations, if that continues to be the reason why we can’t visit our elders.
“Dementia sufferers rely on family visits. I’ll be heartbroken,” Schwarz said.
The Windsor home recorded two resident deaths during Melbourne’s second wave last year, and families of residents have told Guardian Australia they were eager for the facility to be vaccinated.
Bill Appleby, Jewish Care’s chief executive, told Guardian Australia his organisation “was very disappointed with the last-minute cancellation of the Covid vaccination”.
“Clearly any delay is concerning given the vulnerability of the elderly and the fact that we have an outbreak in metropolitan Melbourne. Additionally, any delay has a subsequent impact on influenza vaccination for our elders,” Appleby said.
Josh Burns, the Labor MP for Macnamara which includes the Windsor home, said: “It’s infuriating that an aged care facility, who endured an outbreak and lost residents to this virus last year, have still not been vaccinated.
“Scott Morrison received his jab three months ago and yet these most vulnerable Australians in my electorate are still completely unprotected with a live outbreak,” he said.
The opposition health and ageing spokesman, Mark Butler, said the fact that 29 Victorian aged care homes had not yet received a first dose by Wednesday was “a scandal”.
“All of the residents of aged care facilities across Australia were promised full vaccination by Easter by Scott Morrison,” Butler said.
“I don’t think residents at the 29 facilities that have received not a single dose said ‘We don’t want the vaccine.’ It’s just the commonwealth has not got their act together.”
In an interview with ABC, Butler said there was “no shortage” of vaccine supply and that the federal government should put more resources into vaccinating the aged care population “as a priority”.
Earlier in May, medical professionals told Guardian Australia the cold chain delivery and specialist mobile teams required to administer the Pfizer vaccine were at capacity because of the rollout across aged-care homes, and that a sick day by even a single staff member was forcing vaccinations scheduled for some facilities to be abandoned and their residents moved to the bottom of the queue.
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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Operator of unvaccinated Melbourne nursing home ‘flabbergasted’ by minister’s claim residents opted out | Aged care (Australia)