The Victorian government has announced it will fast-track COVID vaccinations for aged care and disability workers as part of a five-day blitz.
- The vaccination drive will be from Wednesday, June 2 to Sunday, June 6
- There are 10 vaccination centres across the state where workers will be able to get the jab
- The federal Aged Care Services Minister, Richard Colbeck, has confirmed just over 31,000 aged care workers nationally were fully vaccinated
Workers in private aged care facilities and the residential disability sector, which are managed by the Commonwealth, will be given priority access at walk-in vaccination hubs.
“We are going to be making it easier for them,” Victoria’s Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister Luke Donnellan said.
“We will be undertaking a five-day blitz to ensure workers in these vulnerable settings are protected against coronavirus.”
The vaccination drive will be from Wednesday, June 2 to Sunday, June 6.
Mr Donnellan said the workers will have a priority lane to make the delivery quicker for them.
“This is very much about trying to stimulate that demand [from aged care workers], trying to actually get more workers, to get greater coverage of the private aged care sector and also the disability sector,” he said.
“This is very much a call to arms of those workers who are on the frontline.”
The following vaccination centres are participating in the five-day blitz:
- Royal Exhibition Building
- Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC)
- Sandown Racecourse
- Melbourne Showgrounds
- Former Ford Factory – Geelong
- Bendigo Community Clinic
- Ballarat Mercure Hotel and Convention Centre
- Shepparton Showgrounds – McIntosh Centre
- Traralgon Racecourse
- Wodonga Vaccination Hub
Federal government ‘comfortable’ with vaccine rollout
The announcement came as the federal Aged Care Services Minister, Richard Colbeck, confirmed just over 31,000 aged care workers nationally were fully vaccinated, but said the government was not sure exactly how many have had the jab.
He said the government did not have an exact figure because there were a number of ways people could access a vaccine and, until now, aged care providers were not obliged to report to the government which of their staff had received a jab.
“We’re asking the aged care providers who hold the data to report that information back to us,” Senator Colbeck said.
“At this point, we don’t have that consolidated and so we can make it easy for aged care providers … we’ve asked them to report that alongside their flu vaccination data.”
After a grilling at Senate Estimates, Mr Colbeck said the federal government was “comfortable” with the rollout to date.
Lisa Fitzpatrick, the Victorian secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said the minister “should hang up the boots” and give the job to someone “motivated and enthusiastic”.
“I am calling for him to resign, Raf,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Rafael Epstein.
“I think that’s a terrible indictment to be comfortable with less than 10 per cent of the workforce vaccinated when you promised that from February 22, the vaccinations would roll out, and they have never been targeted for private aged care workers.
“Our workforce have only got the dregs if there’s any left over.”
Ms Fitzpatrick said she had “given up on the Commonwealth” to vaccinate the aged care and disability workforce and was instead calling on the union’s members to take the Victorian government up on its offer to give them the jab.
Senate Estimates also heard that fewer than 2 per cent of people living in residential disability care were fully vaccinated.
Health department officials said about 335 people had received both doses of the vaccine and about 3,500 had received at least one — out of more than 22,000 living in residential disability care.
Aged care staff say they were pressured to work
Meanwhile, the Health Workers Union claims aged care providers in Victoria are pressuring their staff to come into work when they should be isolating.
The union’s Diana Asmar said there had been multiple reports of workers being asked to go into work at centres when they should have been at home awaiting a COVID test result.
“The actual managers of the facilities are calling the workers and telling them, ‘No, we want you to come to work’,” she said.
“We’ve been having many, many calls from the workers, some of them have actually gone home to isolate for 14 days but the managers are telling them, ‘It’s OK, don’t worry about it, please come to work because we’re short of staff’.”
In a statement, Arcare chief executive Colin Singh said this was not happening at the Maidstone facility.
“The manager is fully supportive of all measures being put in place to protect team members and is not pressuring anyone to work,” he said.
“All team members are being paid while self-isolating and it does not impact their annual leave entitlements.”
The daughter of a resident at Arcare Maidstone said she was comfortable with the centre’s handling of the situation.
Peta Soorkia said she had managed to stay in touch with her mother, Mary Delilah, over video calls while the centre remained in lockdown.
“She’s in good spirits,” Ms Soorkia told ABC Radio Melbourne.
Ms Soorkia said she wanted to see the vaccination rollout accelerate now to protect the most vulnerable people.
All aged care residents in Victoria have now been offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but it is not clear how many have accepted the offer or how many have been fully vaccinated.