AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, today called for a calm and rational approach to addressing illness outbreaks in aged care residences in the wake of the deaths at Broughton Hall in Melbourne.
Dr Haikerwal said the Broughton Hall gastro outbreak is a tragedy, but the AMA believes it is not a time to be calling for dramatic changes to the system.
'It is a time to carefully identify the causes for the outbreak and take all reasonable steps based on the evidence,' Dr Haikerwal said.
'Calls for the mandatory reporting of all serious illness outbreaks in aged care homes are not justified.
'It would not be practical to report every case and would not help in the management of such situations.
'It is inevitable that outbreaks will occur from time to time in frail and vulnerable nursing home populations.
'No matter how perfect the environment and the systems, there will still be outbreaks.
'Outbreaks of gastroenteritis are commonly related to airborne viruses in addition to food poisoning so it is important to be sure about the aetiology of such outbreaks.
'The first concern for doctors is to ensure that patients in the affected nursing home are safe.
'Then all steps must be taken to ensure that the staff and management at the nursing home are supported in their efforts to provide appropriate care to residents and analyse the cause of the outbreak.
'There are Federal and State accreditation and reporting systems in place to deal with these outbreaks when they occur and they should be used appropriately - and there must be clear and transparent communication between both levels of government.
'This incident does, however, raise the broader issue of whether we have adequate staffing levels and the right skill mix in residential aged care facilities.
'The quality of care provided in aged care homes is directly linked to the value we place on this service and the resources that are allocated to the facilities,' Dr Haikerwal said.