Vic aged home residents move as cases rise

Medical staff will transport Victorian aged care residents to hospitals as COVID-19 cases continue.
Medical staff will transport Victorian aged care residents to hospitals as COVID-19 cases continue.

Victoria's aged care crisis has become so grim the premier says he wouldn't let his mum in virus-affected facilities.

Premier Daniel Andrews provoked an angry response from the federal government when he said he didn't have confidence in some private facilities as coronavirus cases at Victorian aged care homes grew to 769.

"I cannot stand here and tell you that I have confidence that staff and management across a number of private sector aged care facilities are able to provide the care that is appropriate to keep their residents safe," Mr Andrews said on Tuesday.

"My mother is in her mid-70s, underlying health issues but she lives at home ... I would not let my mum be in some of these places, I just wouldn't," he said.

He added that the private centres are not the state government's responsibility and said some stories coming out of nursing homes with outbreaks were unacceptable.

Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck was unimpressed, calling the comments unwarranted and unnecessary.

"Everyone that I know in aged care is working really hard," he told 3AW.

"It doesn't need that sort of response from one of the country's leaders at a time like this, when they're all under enormous pressure."

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also vehemently rejected Mr Andrews' comments, saying he fully supported aged care workers.

An emotional Mr Hunt told reporters his father lived in a nursing home and said he could not imagine his family and father receiving better care.

"My father lived in one, and we knew that that meant he was in the latest stages of his life," he said.

"The idea that our carers, that our nurses, are not providing that care, I think, is a dangerous statement to make. They are wonderful human beings and I won't hear a word against them."

The premier also announced aged care residents in some homes heavily impacted by COVID-19 will be transferred into hospitals.

Mr Andrews said all non-urgent category two elective surgeries will be suspended in metropolitan Melbourne to free hospital space for at-risk aged care residents.

The premier said residents would not be moved en masse and transfers would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Nurses from hospitals will also be redeployed to nursing homes to assist with care, as some face staff shortages.

There are currently 80 outbreaks and 769 active cases of the virus in aged care, but only five of them are in public facilities.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there were 88 cases now at Estia Health Aged Care in Ardeer, 86 cases linked to St Basil's Homes for the Aged in Fawkner and 82 cases associated with Epping Gardens Aged Care.

Highlighting the fraught state of Victoria's fight against the aged care crisis, the state's health minister Jenny Mikakos also fought back tears on Tuesday as she briefed the media.

Ms Mikakos said the numbers in aged care facilities were distressing, citing St Basil's - a home with strong links to Melbourne's Greek community - as a residence of particular concern.

As the health minister spoke about the St Basil's outbreak, she became emotional and needed to stop and compose herself.

Most tests came back negative for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Royal Children's Hospital, Ms Mikakos said.

The hospital confirmed on Monday it had one patient, one staff member and two parents who tested positive for COVID-19 in that unit.

Prof Sutton said outbreaks at meatworks across Melbourne have also increased, with 99 cases linked to Somerville Meats Retail Services in Tottenham and 89 associated with Bertocchi Smallgoods in Thomastown.

Victoria recorded 384 more cases and another six deaths on Tuesday taking the state's toll to 83 and the national figure to 167.

Four of the deaths were aged care residents.

Australian Associated Press