Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr ROCKLIFF
The World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 to be an airborne virus in May 2021. The Victorian Department of Health confirmed this reality again on 4 February this year. Despite this, your department's guidelines for residential aged care facilities continue to falsely claim that COVID-19 transmission is via contact with particles or droplets. As a consequence, there is no general requirement for aged care staff to wear masks to protect themselves and the vulnerable people they work for from the risk of a potentially deadly or disabling airborne virus. Do you agree COVID-19 is an airborne virus and will you immediately investigate and update the aged care guidelines to conform to international best practice?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member, Dr Woodruff, for her question and her interest in this matter. Of course, as the member alludes to, the pandemic has been challenging, both nationally and internationally, and challenging for this state as well, but we have come through the pandemic extremely well. The work that has been done across the health sectors has been outstanding in terms of our plan. That significant planning, leading up to our borders opening, has allowed our workforce, our THS and our health settings to be agile and responsive to the Omicron variant, which has been highly transmissible but, it appears, mild compared to Delta.
We have much to be proud of in Tasmania in terms of our hospitalisation rates per capita. As tragic as any death is, we have lower death rates per capita as well. Our COVID@home program has been a significant contributor -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. The minister is far and away from a very straightforward question that I asked him -
Mr SPEAKER - What is the point of order?
Dr WOODRUFF - about specific guidelines that are -
Mr SPEAKER - What is the point of order?
Dr WOODRUFF - Under 45, relevance - answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER - There is no point of order, Dr Woodruff, please sit down.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order under standing order 45, relevance.
Mr SPEAKER - Please sit down. You are officially warned, Dr Woodruff. Please sit down.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of clarification, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER - There is no such thing as a clarification. I have asked you to sit down, Dr Woodruff. If you do not sit down you will be leaving the Chamber. The minister has an opportunity to answer the question. Just because he is not saying what you would like to hear, does not mean he is not answering the question. I cannot put words in the minister's mouth. The minister has the floor and he has several minutes to conclude his answer.
Mr ROCKLIFF - Thank you, Mr Speaker. Throughout the pandemic the health and safety of Tasmanians has been the number one priority for this Government.
As we have persistently seen across the world, aged care homes are especially vulnerable to the serious impacts of COVID-19 and we must do all we can to ensure our residents are vaccinated as quickly as possible. The Aged Care Emergency Operations Centre is working with the residential aged care sector to assist with the responses to manage and support residents with COVID-19.
Aged care workers and residents were prioritised when we first began rolling out our vaccination program. Staff seeking to work in residential aged care are now mandated as a condition of their employment to be vaccinated.
Dr Woodruff - Staff have approached you about this issue.
Mr SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, I will ask you to leave the Chamber until after question time, thank you. Once you have asked a question, you must allow the minister an opportunity to answer it, not continually interject.
Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Speaker, standing order 152 -
Mr SPEAKER - I have asked you to leave the Chamber, Dr Woodruff.
Dr Woodruff - Standing order 152.
Mr SPEAKER - Unless you wish to be named, Dr Woodruff, I would leave the Chamber.
Dr Woodruff - Standing order 152 - I dissent from your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER - I name the member. Dr Woodruff, there is no opportunity. Please sit down.