Australia's Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the country's aged care industry is not in crisis despite a record number of coronavirus deaths.
Health officials told a parliamentary committee that a record 691 aged care residents have died with COVID-19 so far in 2022 compared to 282 in 2021 and 685 in 2020. More than 900 of Australia's 2,900 aged care facilities are currently affected by coronavirus outbreaks.
The minister has dismissed suggestions he should resign over widespread COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in the sector.
Amid criticism from senators representing the Labor and Greens parties, Colbeck rejected calls for him to resign, saying that coronavirus deaths were not an indicator of the sector's performance.
"I pay enormous tribute to the providers and particularly the workforce. But every time you tell them how bad it is, you're saying how bad they are," he said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The federal government earlier in February announced up to 1,700 Australian Defense Force (ADF) personnel would be deployed to assist the workforce amid unprecedented staffing pressure.
Australia on Wednesday reported more than 25,000 new coronavirus infections and more than 60 deaths, including 27 in New South Wales, 18 in Victoria and 12 in Queensland.
According to Department of Health data, there were 2,949 cases being treated in hospitals on Tuesday including 222 in intensive care units.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Wednesday that over half of Australians aged 16 and over have now received a coronavirus vaccine booster dose.