As the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds in Victoria, Mission Australia is calling for an urgent NSW Health commitment to ensure automatic hospitalisation of consumers in NSW’s aged care and other residential facilities with clients who are at greater risk such as people who are homeless, when they test positive for COVID-19.

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said: “The NSW Government response to the pandemic so far has been robust. However, we are deeply concerned about the impact that we are seeing of COVID-19 outbreaks particularly on vulnerable people in aged care facilities in Victoria, and a few months ago in NSW.”

Mr Toomey continued: “Like many community service providers and aged care providers, Mission Australia is working hard to keep the vulnerable people we serve and our committed staff safe and well at this difficult time.

“While we have strong infection controls and other preventative and outbreak management measures in place, these residential facilities are simply not funded nor resourced to be able to operate like a hospital.

“We recognise and appreciate the recent Protocol to support joint management of a COVID-19 outbreak in a residential aged care facility in NSW which has helped to clarify arrangements for aged care facilities. However, it falls short of providing a commitment from NSW Health to follow the example of South Australia and Queensland and hospitalise people from these facilities who test positive for COVID-19.

“To reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19 in NSW’s residential settings where consumers are more vulnerable to the impacts of the virus, we urgently need NSW Health to commit to an outbreak management measure that ensures residential services consumers who test positive for COVID-19 are immediately transferred to hospital.

“By putting these hospitalisation measures in place now and allowing us to plan with hospitals, it will give us all the best possible chance to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on some of NSW’s most vulnerable people.

“We know that older people are particularly at risk of serious illness due to this insidious virus, but there are also many other people in residential facilities throughout the State who are susceptible to the impacts of COVID-19, such as rough sleepers who might have chronic health conditions such as heart problems or respiratory issues.

“If we do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable now, it will help us to reduce the spread and will help our communities and country to thrive into the future.”

In NSW, Mission Australia operates three aged care facilities for those at risk of homelessness or formerly homeless, with two in Sydney and one in Orange. The charity also operates other residential facilities providing crisis and transitional accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, mental health services and rehabilitation programs.

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