The Chair of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the Hon G T Pagone QC, calls upon all in the Australian community, including the Australian Government and aged care providers, to be vigilant about the many and varied impacts of, and responses to, COVID19. The pandemic affects the entire country but affects each of us differently. The aged in our community are amongst the most vulnerable and are affected both by the potential to be infected with the virus as well as by the unintended consequences of the otherwise understandable and reasonable steps which have been taken to ensure for their safety.
We have heard, and continue to hear, of many unfortunately unintended consequences flowing from the measures which have been taken to comply with the reasonable restrictions which have been imposed upon us by Government to protect the health and wellbeing of those intended to be protected. Many older people have been restricted in the number and length of family and other visitors who have been allowed to visit them.
We understand the importance of these measures and support them having been undertaken. They are designed to help all, including those for whom the impact may be harsh. We must all bear in mind, however, the vulnerability of this part of the community to be protected and that a consequence of the measures taken to protect them may be causing them harm. There is, therefore, a need that the measures put in place to protect frail older people also deal with the negative aspects of the measures designed to protect them.
We have heard that an inability to receive visitors, or a lessening of time which visitors may attend to visit, can have impacts upon the supplementary care family visitors frequently provide for such basic things as feeding and toileting.The reduction of such visits from family needs to be supplemented by additional measures to ensure a healthy and quality life.
This may require urgent measures to deploy suitably qualified personnel to be directed to identifying the new needs, and increased needs, caused by the responses to COVID19. It may also need specifically targeted redeployment of qualified personnel to supplement the care, support and wellbeing measures for our vulnerable frail community. It may also require creative measures to supplement the personal human contact that may be restricted or removed during these times: it may require, for example, providing access to electronic devices to enable more constant contact through video platforms where that is feasible and meaningful.
The work of the Royal Commission has continued although we too have had to reorganise the way in which we do so. Our task is to investigate the safety and quality of aged care in Australia, and do so as safely as possible in a pandemic.
How we respond in the measures needed to care and provide quality of life to our older citizens will be an important indication of how good our system is and what may need to be done to improve it.
27 March 2020