News Coronavirus Aged Care minister offers comfort as virus victims’ families demand answers

Aged Care minister offers comfort as virus victims’ families demand answers

Patient transport vehicles at Epping Gardens aged care facility in Melbourne. Photo: AAP
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Up to 100 relatives of elderly people who died in nursing homes in coronavirus hotspots in Victoria have had an emotional Zoom call with the federal aged care minister.

Richard Colbeck described the call held on Thursday night as “pretty grim”.

“They were obviously upset, they were distressed, some of them were angry, they were looking for answers about some of the events that had occurred,” he told Nine Network.

More reports emerged on Friday of bodies being left in beds for hours, relatives having to say their final farewells to parents and grandparents over the phone and some not even getting the chance to say goodbye.

Deaths and high infection rates amongst elderly people in aged care in Victoria continue to be a major issue, with 10 of the 13 latest victims confirmed on Thursday linked to outbreaks in nursing homes.

Aged Care minister Senator Richard Colbeck says his Zoom chat with families was “pretty grim”. Photo: AAP

More than 450 of Victoria’s almost 5000 active cases are aged care residents and more deaths are expected in coming days.

Victoria recorded a massive 723 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday – the highest daily toll so far. Across the state, some 105 people have died, taking the national toll to 189.

The worst affected homes include St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner (111 infected), Estia Aged Care Facility in Ardeer (94), and Epping Gardens Aged Care in Epping (90).

The federal government has oversight of privately operated nursing homes across the country.

Senator Colbeck said he was sorry for what the Victorian families were going through.

“I don’t want to see anyone’s loved one in an aged care facility not being treated properly, none of us do,” he said.

The minister pointed to shortages of aged care workers in the state after more than 400 became infected with the virus.

The federal government has sent defence force medics into the state to plug some of the gaps in nursing homes rosters, while nursing staff are coming from other states as well.

“We have a really severe workforce shortage in Victoria. That’s why we have organised with other states to send nurses, in particular, into Victoria,” Senator Colbeck said.