Jenny McFadden has started a Facebook group, Covid Safe Elders Australia. People can get in touch with the group and share their concerns about the way the elderly are being managed during Covid-19.
“We’re interested in people who have experiences and stories about aged care. These experiences can help us show how facilities are already really struggling to provide good care because they are underfunded and have lack of staff, lack of training and a critical shortfall of funds from the government,” Jenny said.
“And how much more the government needs to provide to support and fund facilities who just don’t have the resources they need to effectively cope with Covid-19,” Jenny said.
“When my siblings and I saw how the Newmarch House situation was being handled, our immediate reaction was: ‘This isn’t right’. Our parents live in aged care. We messaged each other, my brother and sister and I, and we said ‘What if our parents were in the same situation?’.”
“We thought there must be many other people who are as concerned as we are.”
“And if Covid-19 were to suddenly appear at their place, what would our parents’ rights be? Of particular concern was what appears to be a lack of rights of the residents to be transferred out to seek medical care from an alternative institution, at the time of their choosing, whether it is a major hospital or another service.”
“Would the residents have the right so say they want another organisation to take over their care and if families say this on their behalf, would they be heard? We want this reassurance from the state and federal governments.”
“This is not a criticism of the staff who have to go to work every day and face the difficult situation of Covid-19 infections. But the aged care facilities that most people are in now don’t have hospital standard intensive care units and the staff don’t have the training or the experience to manage a Covid-19 outbreak.”
“Aged care facilities need more support than they’re getting in the current situation and this needs to be more transparent, so the public is reassured.”
“We’re asking what interventions both levels of government, state and federal, are prepared to take immediately, on day one that there is an infection declared in an aged care facility, in contrast to the slower response they’ve had to outbreaks of Covid-19 in those institutions so far. The current approach needs to change, state and federal government need to be prepared to step in.”
“This is not about aged care per se. It is about the requirement to have Covid-19 plans in place, and for government to be able to support families with the resources needed, if they decide they want to take a resident out of an aged care facility because of Covid-19. Surely it is a basic right to be able to do everything you can as an individual to avoid infection.”
“We’re also concerned that there might be people who are being treated as if “they’re old anyway” so don’t take them to hospital, they’re not supposed to take up hospital beds regardless of their wishes to be transferred there. And then even hospital professionals judging “they don’t have any quality of life” so they aren’t worth treating.* Their human rights are being ignored. And if they don’t want resuscitation that’s fine, provide the best of care for them anyway.”
“Most people have to prepare an advance care plan when they arrive at an aged care facility. But how will these change as a consequence of Covid-19, to take in this new reality? How will the Covid-19 death be discussed with residents and their families?”
“We know there has been a recent Royal Commission into aged care and it has addressed many questions – but it did not have the opportunity to address Covid-19 because it hadn’t happened then.”
“So we want to make submissions to the Senate, to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Shadow Minister for Health, seeking reassurances about the way elderly Covid-19 patients are treated.”
(*At Good Grief! we believe most hospitals manage the complex questions about end-of-life in a nuanced way. But is this communicated effectively to families? How can communication about this be improved? Has the Covid-19 pandemic exposed areas that need improvement?)