Robert*, a manager of a handful of inner-Sydney nursing homes who spoke to Crikey under the condition of anonymity, had finally had enough.
He was meeting with yet another person outside the sector who mentioned they had just had their COVID-19 vaccination — and yet not one of his hundreds of residents or workers had received anything.
He also couldn’t he get any word from the government on when they were likely to get their jab.
“I’m just so angry,” he said.
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He didn’t begrudge anyone receiving their vaccination, but he had been under the impression the aged care sector would be the priority.
“It’s not that we have not seen enough vaccines in our case. We have had absolutely none. Also we are not being given any indication as to when we might get anything. Nothing.”
I was speaking to Robert about his plight yesterday, just as the issue exploded publicly.
Earlier this week Scott Morrison tried to blame the states for the slow vaccine rollout, prompting a fierce backlash from the Queensland and NSW premiers. Gladys Berejiklian openly accused the PM’s office of deliberately leaking misleading figures.
“I will not have untrue statements made publicly about what is a complex system,” she said, before backing it up with a furious letter to the PM himself.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he had never been “angrier” since fighting the virus.
“I think the federal government should be offering apologies to not only our government but other governments around the country,” Hazzard said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was forced to put out a press release later in the day clarifying the situation in Commonwealth-funded aged care homes, but even that bit of spin backfired.
The press release boasted: “To date, over 99,000 vaccines have been delivered to aged care and disability facilities. Aged care residents have been vaccinated in 848 residential aged care and disability facilities, with 279 of those facilities having received a second dose.”
The problem? That’s only one third of the total number of total facilities.
This is why Robert is so angry at the federal government’s inaction. Half his homes are in inner-city Sydney, in a high-density, low economic, culturally diverse area.
“Our staff travel in by public transport so they are vulnerable,” he said, adding that there is also the problem of numerous visitors coming through the facilities.
He is also worried about the number of patients who were already saying they would not be vaccinated. And that problem is only being exacerbated as the days go on.
“This delay only makes it worse,” he said. “The residents are getting anxious and saying things like ‘bugger them’ [the government] — they obviously don’t know what they are doing.
“They are losing confidence.”
He pointed out that it will take time and preparation to organise for the 400 residents to get vaccinated, yet they are getting no warning.
“You can’t just do this with 24 hours notice, yet nobody can tell us when it is happening.”
Initially they were told the government would provide nurses to do the injections, but he now believes his own staff might have to do it instead. While they are fully trained to do so, it is yet another issue that will have to be organised with little notice.
This is just one story, but it’s clear Robert’s is not an isolated case.
A nationwide vaccine rollout was always going to be challenging. Some hiccups were to be expected. But the government could help itself with less spin, more action.
As with everything.
*Name changed for anonymity.