Topics: Aged care vaccinations;
Karl Stefanovic: Bring in Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham in Canberra. Good morning to you. Thanks for your time today. You just heard it then. Basically, you allowed staff to move across facilities in multiple locations and before staff and the residents were vaccinated. Do you feel like you’ve failed them?
Simon Birmingham: No, Karl. Look, we have 100 per cent of facilities and sites across Victoria where residents have been vaccinated. Now, at a time where there was no known Covid transmission in the community, we allowed staff to resume normal working patterns, recognising that there are absolutely staff shortages, pressures that exist in the aged care sector-
Karl Stefanovic: Do you recognise now that was the wrong decision. Do you regret that decision?
Simon Birmingham: No, Karl. We do have to recognise there are ongoing pressure points that exist in terms of the aged care workforce. And you’ve got to make sure that those pressure points are dealt with. Now, those restrictions were brought back in place as soon as they became clear that there was a risk heightened again. But equally along the way, we have had a vaccination program that has now reached 100 per cent of sites and aged care facilities across Victoria. And the cases in terms of the resident who has contracted Covid and the resident who is suspected of contracting Covid, both of them have received their first dose vaccination. Now, we hope that they will both be okay, but we have stretched that vaccination program into those facilities.
Karl Stefanovic: You allowed aged care staff to work in multiple aged care homes before everyone, including staff and residents, were fully vaccinated. How is that not a letdown?
Simon Birmingham: We were dealing at that stage at a time of no known community transmission occurring. Once there were instances and issues, then those restrictions were put back in place. But by that time, we also had a vaccination program that has got us now to the point where 100 per cent of the Victorian aged care facilities have had the vaccination visitation to their residence. And the cases we’re talking about in terms of those residents are people who have been vaccinated with their first. First dose is shown to provide around an 80 per cent reduction in the likelihood of severe illness from Covid.
Karl Stefanovic: It sounds to me like you made a budget decision.
Simon Birmingham: It’s got nothing to do with the budget. It has no impact in relation to our budget. It is important in terms of workforce management in the aged care sector, making sure that residents in aged care can receive the care that they need in a sector that does face workforce shortages.
Karl Stefanovic: Given that Covid got into those facilities now where staff weren’t vaccinated and residents weren’t vaccinated, do you regret that decision?
Simon Birmingham: Again, 100 per cent of the facilities across Victoria, residents have received vaccinations in. And the residents we are talking about who have got Covid have received the vaccine-
Karl Stefanovic: I dunno, what does that even mean?
Simon Birmingham: What do you mean, what does it mean?
Karl Stefanovic: No, no, please. With respect, you’re saying that they’ve have they have access to it, but doesn’t mean everyone inside have had them.
Simon Birmingham: 85 per cent of the residents have chosen to be vaccinated. Vaccinations are not compulsory. We don’t we don’t mandate that the residents must be vaccinated. 85 per cent have chosen to be vaccinated. And the two cases in which there are individuals who were who have Covid or have been or are suspected of having Covid, they have both received the first dose.
Karl Stefanovic: How many staff have been vaccinated in those facilities?
Simon Birmingham: Karl, I don’t have the exact figure for residents-
Karl Stefanovic: Why not?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the residents are the first priority because the residents are the ones who are highly vulnerable in relation to the impacts of Covid. The residents are the ones who are in the aged cohort.
Karl Stefanovic: I’m no expert, but I’m no expert here. But surely you have a number on how many staff have been vaccinated?
Simon Birmingham: I don’t have a number to hand.
Karl Stefanovic: Why not?
Simon Birmingham: But what I can tell you, Karl, is the residents were always the first priority because they’re the ones who are at greatest risk of actually illness and sickness from Covid.
Karl Stefanovic: But you have staff working at multiple facilities. You’ve got to know how many have been vaccinated, given that someone might get Covid and go to another facility. I mean, it’s just it just makes perfect sense. You have to know how many have been vaccinated. You don’t know because there’s not a database-.
Simon Birmingham: Karl, across Australia I can tell you around 70,000 aged care workers have been vaccinated facility by facility.
Karl Stefanovic: How many are there?
Simon Birmingham: I don’t have the figures to hand. And I don’t have the total cohort of the workforce to hand either, Karl. But you’ve got to realise the priority are the residents, they are the older citizens who are vulnerable if they catch Covid. And that’s why they were the priority in the front line. And that’s why we’ve made sure that 100 per cent of aged care facilities across Victoria and more than 99 per cent across Australia have had the opportunity to be vaccinated and 85 per cent of those older Australian residents in aged care have taken up that opportunity.
Karl Stefanovic: I just feel so deeply for those people. I mean, you spent 18 billion in the budget on aged care and there was much hoopla around that and there was much talk about that. And you’d be paraded around about that. And here we have multiple people who have Covid inside aged care facilities and staff who have been working with that being that we have residents who haven’t been vaccinated. The whole thing’s a debacle.
Simon Birmingham: Karl, being vaccinated is not a guarantee that somebody can’t transmit Covid. Indeed, we can see through these cases that people, indeed, the aged care worker who is believed to have potentially transmitted Covid to the resident was somebody who had been vaccinated. What vaccination does achieve is a very significant reduction in relation to the likelihood of getting sick or facing serious illness. And that’s why going to those older residents in those aged care homes, 100 per cent of the homes across Victoria, 85 per cent of the residents choosing to do so. That is the protection that is there and importantly, ensuring that there is a far reduced risk in relation to them getting sick.
Karl Stefanovic: I would have thought the staff being in there, too, and knowing the numbers who have been vaccinated is important to that. Simon. We do have to move on all the very best to try and help fix this because it needs fixing. I’m good on your thanks for your time today.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Karl.