The mandatory vaccination debate has been a clever Morrison Government tactic.
It has distracted everyone, including the media, from the key issue.
The Morrison Government promised to vaccinate the private and not-for-profit age care workforce.
And then it didn’t.
Then more than 100 days later on Wednesday 2 June, Federal Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck admitted that they only sent in-reach teams to vaccinate residential aged care residents.
Senator Colbeck was being questioned in the Senate Estimates process.
His answers revealed the government did not have oversight over the numbers of aged care staff who had received one or two vaccination doses or none.
Senator Colbeck reaffirmed he was ‘comfortable’ with the roll out of the vaccination in this sector.
This is the sector that felt the brutal impact of last year’s COVID-19 outbreak with almost 2000 resident cases, sadly 655 resident deaths and more than 1600 staff infections.
For weeks Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt told reporters the government was visiting aged care facilities and providing vaccinations. The statements were always vague. The Morrison Government let reporters assume the visits included residents and staff, but they never actually specified.
ANMF had been telling the Federal Government that the private aged care workforce needed certainty.
If it wasn’t going to ensure that vaccination occurred as it had promised in February 2021, then let the state Andrews Government system deliver in-reach vaccination.
We pleaded with the Morrison Government to provide funding and vaccine supply and let public sector nurses deliver the aged care program.
They handed over responsibility to the Andrews Government, but no funding or additional vaccines.
Senator Colbeck told Senate Estimates the situation changed when the government realised residents and staff could not be vaccinated at the same session due to the expected adverse reaction.
Understandably you don’t want everyone feeling unwell at the same time.
But Senator Colbeck did not explain why in-reach teams did not return to vaccinate the staff.
Instead, members told us awful stories about being offered the vaccine dregs after the residents were vaccinated.
ANMF knows that the majority of nurses, midwives and personal care workers will have the vaccination if it is easy and accessible.
We need an energetic, motivated and compassionate aged care leader.
The damning aged care royal commission report and recommendations coupled with the experience of the sector during the pandemic should ignite a minister to work harder than they have ever worked before.
We need a minister who will not rest until the work is done to provide safe, quality care for residents and support and respect for staff.
The ANMF does not believe that Senator Colbeck fits the bill.