‘Stand-off’ hurting aged care response to coronavirus outbreak, royal commission hears

Disagreements between the NSW and Federal Governments adversely impacted the handling of a coronavirus outbreak in a Western Sydney nursing home, the Royal Commission into Aged Care has heard.

Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Rozen QC told the hearing that the problems stemmed from the fact that the health systems are run by the state governments while aged care is managed by the Commonwealth.

“We surely have no hope of fighting COVID-19 and protecting the residents in our nursing homes if the various levels of governments are not working together,” he said.

He said the inquiry would look into whether there had been sufficient planning to decide who would call the shots in the event of an outbreak.

He said the outbreak at Newmarch House in Caddens, where 17 residents died after contracting COVID-19, suggested this planning was not adequately addressed.

The Commission also heard there was a “stand-off” between NSW Health and the Federal Government over whether residents who tested positive to COVID-19 should be transferred to hospital.

An email appearing to quote NSW Health noted: “The preference is not to decant residents into hospitals given the precedent it would set.”

Mr Rozen said equal access to the hospital system was a fundamental right of all Australians, regardless of age.

“To put it very directly, older people are not less deserving of hospital treatment because they are old, such an approach is ageist.”

The hearing continues.