Australian aged care COVID deaths pass 5,000 after monthly death toll doubles in January Health

Photo of author

More than 5,000 Australian aged care residents have died with Covid since the start of the pandemic, a sharp increase in the number of reported deaths since the start of the year.

Department of Health figures confirm that the number of Covid deaths in aged care facilities rose from a total of 4,448 on 22 December to 5,045 on 25 January.

This increase of 597 deaths in just one month was much higher than the 246 deaths recorded between 22 December and 24 November.

The increase reflects an increase in community transmission among the general population at that time, but also suggests that aged care facilities have struggled to protect vulnerable residents, despite best efforts.

The latest weekly update on 27 January recorded 291 active outbreaks in multiple aged care facilities. About 1,220 active cases were reported among residents and 432 among employees.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Aged Care said every death in aged care was a tragedy and acknowledged the rise in cases had led to an increase in deaths in January.

But the spokeswoman also said the significant jump in reported deaths during January was influenced by a change in reporting methodology.

“The COVID in Residential Aged Care Facilities report now includes collated data from multiple departmental sources, including case management teams through the My Aged Care Provider portal and directly from aged care providers, to be prepared for early 2022 COVID outbreaks was introduced.” the spokesman said.

“While there was an increase in new deaths each week in January as a direct result of increased cases in December, the spike in January is largely due to the additional 232 deaths that occurred between December 2021 and January 2023 as a direct result. Data Merger.

The latest snapshot also reveals staff shortages at dozens of facilities. In the week leading up to 25 January, a surge workforce worked 817 shifts in 46 residential aged care homes.

“These shifts include GP, nurse, care worker, allied health worker roles [and] executive and support staff,” the update said.

The Temporary Surge Workforce is a Commonwealth initiative that allows approved facilities to call on a reserve workforce.

During January, this surge was provided by Workforce Healthcare Australia, Aspen Medical, HealthX and the Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association. These organizations receive federal funding as part of the plan.

Skip past newsletter promotions

Tom Symondson, chairman of the Aged and Community Care Providers Association, said the latest wave of Covid infections had “nowhere near the severe impact of last summer’s holiday period”.

“The removal of the mandate in all jurisdictions at the end of 2022 means providers have a responsibility to wear masks before aged care home visits and enforce regulations such as RATs,” said Symondson.

“The community may be living with Covid, but the pandemic remains a reality in aged care.”

Australian Medical Association president, Professor Steve Robson, said the deaths were “tragic but not surprising given the state of the largely neglected aged care sector”.

“We’ve known that elderly people are more vulnerable since early in the pandemic and have implemented targeted strategies, some from the outset … but we clearly haven’t done enough to protect them,” Robson said.

“We have withdrawn almost all public health measures and this puts vulnerable people in aged care at greater risk.”

The latest update also reveals higher levels of vaccination among aged care residents.

“As of January 27, 2023, 157,833 residents are currently eligible for the fourth dose. A total of 134,929 residents, or 85.5% of eligible residents, have received the fourth dose,” the update said.

Leave a Comment