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Call in the troops: Dutton says military may help manage nation’s aged care Covid crisis

Defence Minister Peter Dutton says the military will be brought in if that’s what is required to alleviate pressure on the aged care sector.

Feb 04, 2022, updated Feb 04, 2022
Providing health care was the area in which the largest share of respondents thought the government should bear responsibility, with 73.1 per cent saying it definitely had a key role. (Photo: AAP)

Providing health care was the area in which the largest share of respondents thought the government should bear responsibility, with 73.1 per cent saying it definitely had a key role. (Photo: AAP)

Dutton says Australians needed to face the realities of the virulent Omicron variant but there was no limit on what the government was willing to spend to improve the situation.

“You can’t argue on the one hand that people feel isolated and you want to allow loved ones in, which is the natural reaction, but then say, ‘We’re surprised when Omicron is introduced into aged-care facilities’,” he told the Nine Network.

“It’s a witches’ brew. We need to face the realities of Omicron, the way in which it targets older people and the way in which we want older people in aged care facilities to see their loved ones and grandkids.”

But Wayne Swan says the federal government’s handling of Covid-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities amounts to “lethal incompetence”.

The national Labor president and former treasurer backed calls for Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck to be sacked and for the government to better protect the vulnerable residents.

“This just churns the stomach because there is lethal incompetence here,” he told the Nine Network.

“We need an acknowledgement from the government that this crisis exists and real action will be taken.”

The government has announced a new task force will look into aged care deaths – more than 560 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the Omicron wave – to gather more details.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said there was an enormous amount of distress and anger from Australians over how their loved ones in residential facilities are being treated.

“We’ve got a situation now where one in four shifts aren’t being filled by those working in aged care because they’re not in a position to do that. I just find that so distressing,” he told Nine.

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“Does that mean people are left in their rooms? Does that mean people are not being bathed?”

Marles said it was “heartbreaking” and the government wasn’t focusing on what needed to be done.

“The one thing that you hope is that when you’ve got a loved one in aged care, they’re being looked after in their most vulnerable moment and what we’re seeing here is that that’s just not happening,” he said.

The aged care services minister has denied the sector is in crisis, and insists it’s performing extremely well considering the circumstances.

Labor has called for him to be sacked after it was revealed he attended the cricket in Hobart instead of a parliamentary Covid committee.

Senator Colbeck has defended his actions, saying he was balancing his portfolios, which includes sports, and continued to take meetings relating to aged care.

Deaths continued to increase on Friday, with NSW recording 31 new Covid-related fatalities and Victoria 36.

The deaths came among 10,698 and 11,240 new infections in the states respectively.

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