The close of 2020 brings with it a sense of hope as the unprecedented crisis situation faced by the aged care sector in Australia wanes and an effective COVID vaccination becomes a reality.  For many frontline and clinical staff however, the tragic consequences of the virus, combined with the moral distress caused by having to make forced decisions about acceptable standards of care and resource allocation, will linger.  For older people themselves, living at home or in residential care, the aftermath will be felt into 2021 and beyond as the most vulnerable endure isolation which has had and continues to have a significant effect on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

One direct response to COVID by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission identified in their interim strategy report submitted to the Royal Commission in September 2020, was to provide increased access for older people to relevant allied health and mental health professionals and ensure accredited infection control bodies were deployed to aged care homes to assist staff.  What has emerged very clearly from these responses is that equal access  not only to the health system, but also to health protection, is a fundamental right of all Australians young or old and regardless of where they live. Ongoing decisions and responses should be informed by relevant public health considerations, such as the ‘precautionary principle’ and the ‘population-focused principle’ in the context of aged care reform and the principles of primary health care.  

Overall the closer collaborations between the Australian Department of Health, State Governments and the Commission have shown that in the year ahead there is the opportunity to ensure the experiences of and response to COVID more directly inform long term aged care reform both at the strategic and operational level.  Well beyond the impacts of the pandemic, longer term reform must be based on legislation designed with an explicit attention to advance a rights based approach. This must be integrated with concepts of enhancing and enabling individually defined quality of life and end of life decisions through multidisciplinary and family-centred models of care.

Associate Professor Marguerite Bramble, President of the AAG

Period17 Nov 2020

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleReflecting on COVID and longer term aged care reform
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletAustralasian Ageing Agenda
    Media typePrint
    Duration/Length/Size350 words
    DescriptionStakeholder Views - President of the Australian Association of Gerontology
    Producer/AuthorMarguerite Bramble
    PersonsMarguerite Bramble