Another six Victorians dead, 384 new cases

Another six Victorians have died and 384 new cases have been added to the state's spiralling coronavirus tally.

Victoria's death toll now stands at 83, which is one less than the 84 COVID-19 deaths recorded across the rest of Australia.

Among the six deaths were two people in their 90s, three in their 80s, one in their 70s - four of the deaths have been linked to aged care.

There are 4774 active cases in the state and 414 of those are health workers.

Tuesday's new case number was a small reprieve after a record 532 cases was announced in the state on Monday.

There are 260 Victorians in hospital, with 45 of those being treated in ICU.

Victoria has recorded a total of 9049 coronavirus cases since the crisis began.

It comes as the Australian Medical Association has demanded a royal commission into Victoria's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

With no sign Victoria's soaring active case numbers are stabilising, the AMA says a powerful inquiry is needed to find out what went wrong - from hotel quarantine to contact tracing and aged-care facilities.

AGED CARE CRISIS DEEPENS

Almost 800 cases have now been linked to 61 aged-care centres, including 84 at St Basil's Home for the Aged in Fawkner.

Almost half - 35 of 77 - of Victoria's COVID-19 deaths have been in aged-care facilities, and authorities predict between 50 and 75 Victorians will die from COVID-19 this week.

On Monday residents were evacuated from Epping Gardens Aged Care, after similar moves at St Basil's in Fawkner and Menarock Life Aged Care in Essendon.

An elderly Epping Gardens resident is wheeled out by Paramedics to be transported by ambulance. Picture: David Caird
An elderly Epping Gardens resident is wheeled out by Paramedics to be transported by ambulance. Picture: David Caird

 

It is believed a commonwealth takeover of St Basil's is not yet complete and a special adviser is yet to be appointed.

Concerns have also been raised about the lack of experience of staff sent in as part of the takeover.

"If this was an animal facility the RSPCA would have shut it down by now," a senior government source said.

The Herald Sun has been told of patients not being fed and poor PPE usage by staff. A lack of leadership and neglect have been raised as issues of concern at homes. Aged-care homes have had to call in casual staff from interstate due to so many workers being sick or forced into isolation.

The aged-care crisis has sparked tensions between Victoria and the federal government, which is the primary regulator and funder.

Staff arrive in protective clothing. Picture: David Caird
Staff arrive in protective clothing. Picture: David Caird

AMA Victoria president Associate Professor Julian Rait said a royal commission was needed. He said the government's inquiry into the COVID-19 hotel program did not go far enough or have the judicial powers to uncover wider problems.

"We need a royal commission into the response," he said.

A royal commission into aged care is examining many of the funding and investment issues now being blamed for contributing to COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.

Leading Age Services Australia acting chief adviser Tim Hicks joined calls for a wide-ranging inquiry.

"An in-depth inquiry into the Melbourne and Victorian outbreaks is absolutely needed," he said. "This is an absolute disaster."

Aged and Community Services Australia chief Patricia Sparrow said concerns remained about the supply of PPE to aged-care homes. She said a blanket policy was needed to ensure residents who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred to hospital.

It is believed the federal government is concerned about the current case-by-case policy of transferring residents to hospital.

Asked whether the bushfire royal commission could be expanded to consider the emergency response to the pandemic, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said "people will form judgments about that at the time".

"The royal commission is looking at that in the case of natural disasters. Pandemics and natural disasters are, and can be one and the same thing and, if not, they are very close cousins, that is for sure."

The aged-care royal commission will hold a week of hearings next month on the implications of COVID-19.

 

 

Originally published as Doctors demand coronavirus royal commission