Scott Morrison infuriated Labor politicians in Parliament today when he declared that people who died with Covid in aged care were not necessarily killed by the virus.
The Prime Minister was asked by Labor leader Anthony Albanese if he thinks Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck is performing well after the minister said death totals are not an indication of his success.
Mr Morrison said 711 people have died in aged care homes this year until February 9.
But he pointed out that not all of these residents were killed by Covid even if they were positive at the time of death.
‘While we mourn the loss of those who have passed away in aged care, who have had Covid-19 when they have passed away… passing away with Covid is not the same as passing away because of Covid,’ he said.
The comment sparked shouting across the Parliament from Labor politicians.
‘They may interject on that, but that is the medical advice that has been provided by the Chief Medical Officer,’ Mr Morrison said.
The Prime Minister made the same comment during Question Time last week.
‘When people are passing away with Covid, that does not necessarily mean that they have passed away because of Covid,’ he said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has been at pains to point out the distinction between dying with and dying of Covid for weeks.
On February 1 he said that approximately 60 per cent of those that have passed in aged care were in palliative care.
During a fiery round of questioning at Senate estimates, Senator Colbeck said the number of deaths in aged care from the virus were not an indication of performance.
‘We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and the completely tragic result of that is people will catch the virus across all parts of the community, and tragically, some will die,’ he told the hearing on Wednesday.
‘The performance in managing Covid-19 has improved.’
Senator Colbeck said he had not offered his resignation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison over issues in aged care.
Scott Morrison (pictured) infuriated Labor politicians in Parliament today when he declared that people who died with Covid in aged care were not necessarily killed by the virus
After the government announced up to 1700 Australian Defence Force personnel would be sent into aged care to assist the workforce, just 106 had been deployed.
As of Wednesday, ADF members had been deployed to 21 residential aged care facilities out of the 2900 across the country.
There were 25 ADF personnel deployed in Queensland, 12 in NSW, 45 in Victoria, 18 in South Australia and six in Western Australia.
Senator Colbeck said the government had moved quickly to implement new rules on furloughing staff following workplace shortages in aged care.
Health officials said the situation was exacerbated in early January due to large numbers of COVID cases in aged care and staff also being on leave.
It was revealed there were 915 Covid-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities across the country.
Of those, 479 have been in NSW, 148 in Victoria, 176 in Queensland, 85 in South Australia, three in Tasmania, six in the Northern Territory, 16 in the ACT and two in Western Australia.
Health officials also told estimates that between four and five per cent of the aged care workforce had missed shifts due to testing positive for COVID-19.
However, officials did not state how many facilities across the country had faced staffing issues due to the pandemic and rising Omicron infections.
The aged care minister said while there were issues in the sector that needed to be addressed, he criticised people who wanted to ‘talk down’ aged care.
Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck has defended the performance of the Government over aged care
‘Every time you tell (workers) how bad it is, you’re saying how bad they are,’ Senator Colbeck said.
‘Mistakes have occurred and we’ve acknowledged that.’
The head of Australia’s vaccine rollout, Lieutenant-General John Frewen, told the Senate committee all aged care facilities had been visited for residents to receive their booster doses.
About 450 sites have also had a second visit by the vaccination teams.
He said 80 per cent of the country’s population over 70 had received a booster dose.
‘The efforts for the booster in residential aged care and disability care is the highest priority,’ he said.
THE PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS OF AUSTRALIA’S COVID FATALITIES
Of pre-existing chronic conditions reported on death certificates, the following issues accounted for:
Chronic cardiac conditions – Atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation – 35.8 per cent of deaths with an underlying condition
Dementia – including Alzheimer’s – 30 per cent
Diabetes – 20.6 per cent
Cancer – 14.1 per cent