Mr Andrews said while aged care settings would “pose a risk for a very long time” and a “coordinated approach” would be needed until a vaccine was found, this did not mean the crisis arrangements put in place on July 27 would remain in their current form.
As case numbers in aged care continued to decline, he said, some of the support state health authorities had received from other governments would no longer be needed, but the Victorian government would seek to maintain staffing of the response centre to the highest level possible.
“There will need to be vigilance, there’ll need to be a really coordinated approach,” Mr Andrews said.
The federal and Victorian governments are working on transition arrangements for the centre, which will maintain a coordination function as the state’s aged care emergency becomes less acute.
Mr Buffone, whose replacement will be appointed by the federal Health Department, said the response centre would remain “focussed on the dignity and continuity of care of residents and the safety of aged care workers” under the transition plan.
Australian Defence Force personnel, who have visited 153 Victorian aged care facilities in the past week, will have a reduced presence as the level of need declines.
Sean Rooney, chief executive of Leading Age Services Australia, which represents aged care providers, said maintaining the response centre was “critical” as it was “still providing the essential support … and it must continue to do so until there is minimal or no community transmission”.
Even when Victoria reached this point, he said, ongoing planning and prevention would be needed to avoid further outbreaks.
“With over 600 COVID-19 cases still active in Victorian aged care, we know it is helping to save lives,” Mr Rooney said.
The VARC’s most recent update states there have been no “high risk” aged care facilities in the state since September 1, and the number of facilities with outbreaks was 87 as of Wednesday evening, down from 126 on August 24.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said the response centre would continue to be run as a partnership with the Commonwealth.
The centre is jointly managed by Emergency Management Australia, Emergency Management Victoria and the Victorian Health Department, with participation from the Australian Defence Force and Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said when announcing the establishment of the VACRC on July 25 that the centre would be tasked with “quality control, workforce provision, prevention of outbreaks, rapid response, supporting providers [and] communications to families”.
Labor’s aged care spokeswoman Julie Collins said the Morrison government “should come clean on its plans for the aged care response centre … with so many active cases still in aged care”.
with Noel Towell
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.