National

PM promises to address aged care failures

By AAP Newswire

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted aged care failures will be addressed as the federal government comes under immense pressure over deadly coronavirus outbreaks.

Counsel assisting the aged care royal commission Peter Rozen QC delivered a brutal assessment of the lack of pandemic planning for nursing homes.

"Tragically, not all that could be done was done," he told the hearing on Thursday.

Mr Rozen said the sector was still without a proper plan in Melbourne, where 160 residents have died, despite March outbreaks in Sydney facilities and the current wave in Victoria.

"The federal government, which has sole responsibility for aged care, was firmly on notice early in 2020 about the many challenges the sector would face if there were outbreaks of COVID-19."

Mr Morrison earlier published a Facebook message expressing condolences for the hundreds of elderly people who have died from the disease.

"I want to assure that where there are shortcomings in these areas they'll be acknowledged and the lessons will be learned," he said.

The prime minister is under fire for choosing to release the pre-recorded video rather than facing the scrutiny of a news conference.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese accused Mr Morrison of attempting to shirk responsibility.

"What we know now from the aged care royal commission is that they didn't have a plan," Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.

"We know as well, from expert evidence, that many hundreds of aged care residents will have a premature death as a result of the failure to put in place an appropriate plan."

The royal commission heard the government was aware of workforce shortages and governance issues from the inquiry's interim report released in October last year.

Mr Rozen said experts and unions had offered coronavirus solutions, which weren't heeded.

Large death rates in coronavirus-infected nursing homes across Europe and North America also showed the disease's catastrophic potential.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said there had been six versions of the aged care plan since March 13 and $850 million pumped into training, protective equipment and infection control.

Mr Rozen said the level of risk demanded a high level of preparedness, disagreeing with health secretary Brendan Murphy's evidence there was an adequate plan.

The disease has claimed 361 Australian lives with almost 70 per cent of those aged care residents.

Australia has one of the worst aged care death rates in the world.

Victoria recorded eight more deaths on Thursday and 278 new cases, the lowest daily increase in more than three weeks.

NSW has recorded its first coronavirus death in more than a week after an elderly woman died from the virus.