People who are over the age of 60 and who have other conditions such as lung or heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses which affect immunity are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.
In Victoria, seniors in aged care facilities have been most affected, even more, magnified because the transmission is local, no matter how the government has strived to control infection. It has recently imposed Stage 4 Stay at Home restrictions, implementing a curfew, the compulsory wearing of face masks, and limiting allowed activities in public.
The latest statistics released by the Department of Health show that in Victoria, as of 19 August, there are 1,272 active cases, 49 recovered and 276 deaths in government-subsidised residential facilities. This statistic represents 95% of Australia’s total infection rate for seniors in aged care facilities country-wide. This is an alarming development and not encouraging at all for state planners, as well as caregivers and families affected by the predicament of our elderlies.
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In an opinion piece by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Prof Michael Kidd AM, he said that aged care facilities become susceptible to a COVID-19 outbreak when asymptomatic staff and/or visitor bring the virus in without themselves suspecting that they are already carriers. The key is to control community transmission, he further says. Because even regular checks conducted at the doorstep could not 100% pick up on infection right away and prevent its spread within the facility.
Our very own Maria Bradford, a Filipino-Australian personal care assistant at Estia Aged Care, had regular testing for the virus which would turn out negative. Until one day, she had the symptoms and had to be brought to the hospital to be treated for COVID.
We laud the efforts of government to prevent the further spread of the virus. On 6 August, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, a multisectoral committee coordinating and deploying resources to protect the senior Australians was created. The Australian Defense Force, Australian Medical Assistance Team and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission have been working together to conduct spot checks, assess procedures, educating people on the job, conducting infection prevention and control and use of personal protective equipment in aged care facilities and deliver training on infection control for facilities who still don’t have on-site infection.
While government steps up its efforts to protect seniors and the citizens overall, we should take it upon ourselves to also conduct ourselves properly at home, and especially in public. Bear in mind that being entitled at this time of the pandemic risks the lives of people. They are not just numbers on the tally board, but real people. Fact is, one death is one casualty too many.
We have read horrid stories about patients who have died in a hospital without family around them. Imagine how much more daunting this experience is for an aged person in an aged care residence, living in isolation from family, probably suffering from some other diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s. This could be overwhelming and lead to the least peaceful exit for them.
Truth be told, we are all fighting an invisible enemy which seems to gain strength when we show no regard for others. We could demand for a higher standard of state planning and execution of strategies from government, but we should also mandate ourselves to live conscientiously as a benchmark for others to follow. After all, we should not ask for something we ourselves could not give, especially at a time when lives are at stake.
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