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Federal government sends ‘medical SAS team’ into Melbourne’s aged care facilities to tackle COVID-19

The federal government is sending a specialist medical team into Melbourne’s aged care homes to tackle the coronavirus crisis, after 81 Victorian facilities were infected.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed the Australian Medical Assistance Team, specially trained in handling humanitarian disasters, would be sent to Victoria.

‘They are the best of the best, they are the SAS of the medical world,’ he told reporters on Tuesday.    

‘AUSMAT, which has helped out in other states and territories, will be coming to Victoria.

‘They’ve assisted with quarantine, they’ve assisted in Western Australia, they’ve assisted with activities around the country.’ 

An extra five million masks and 500,000 face shields will also be provided for workers after 804 active COVID-19 cases were linked to aged care homes. 

The specialist team will join nurses from Victoria, NSW and South Australia looking after Melbourne’s aged care homes.

Members of the Australian Defence Force have also been called to assist in the troubled nursing homes after staff were forced to quarantine in the hundreds. 

Seven of Victoria’s nine deaths on Wednesday were linked to outbreaks in aged care, bringing the state’s toll from the virus to 92.

There were also 295 new COVID-19 cases announced on Wednesday and Victoria currently has 4,849 active cases.     

On Wednesday morning Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the care homes were struggling to cope.

‘No business in Australia has a business continuity plan that accounts for their entire workforce not being able to go to work.

‘I think in a lot of ways that has led some of the most affected institutions to where they are now,’ he said.

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, established on Saturday, has begun to co-ordinate staff and transfer residents to hospitals. 

About 170 aged care residents have been evacuated from their homes and dozens more are expected to follow in the coming days. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday also suspended several types of elective surgery to further free up hospital beds for aged care residents.     

Mr Andrews said he did not have confidence some aged-care providers were ‘able to provide the care that is appropriate to keep their residents safe’. 

‘My mother is in her mid-seventies, with underlying health issues but she lives at home. Some of the stories we’ve seen are unacceptable and I wouldn’t want my mum in some of those places,’ Mr Andrews said. 

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