2 July 2022

Anglicare Victoria struggles to secure COVID tests for vulnerable children

Covid19 Antigen Rapid Test Kit. Picture: Dronepicr Wikimedia Commons

By Chris Shearer

11 January 2022

Anglicare Victoria says it is in desperate need of rapid antigen tests to keep its clients and staff safe.  

Chief Executive Paul McDonald told The Melbourne Anglican that the agency was most concerned about its children and young people’s residential units. 

Mr McDonald said the 30 residential units needed about 2000 to 2200 tests each week for the 500 children and young people, plus staff, that pass through the 24-hour sites on any given day.  

At market rate, this would cost the agency upwards of $50,000 each week.  

But the agency has been unable to source nearly enough tests. Mr McDonald said that last week they were able to acquire 100 tests out of 400 they had ordered from Queensland.  

“We’ve had dreadful trouble,” he said.  

“I’m talking with [the state] government about this, about prioritising children, and the staff who run out-of-home care. I’m hoping to hear in the next two days if we’ve got supplies,” he added.  

He noted that supply chain and logistical troubles could still delay this even if the state government agreed to supply free tests.  

“I haven’t even talked about home-based care, or family services, or emergency relief … if you can’t put staff on, other care elements go.” 

Mr McDonald hit out at the federal government, questioning the point of enacting a testing policy around RATs when there weren’t enough tests to go around.  

“The fact is the federal government has shown they’re not in front of this,” he said.  

“For it to pivot so rapidly to rapid antigen as the test … you can’t have a policy without a supply of the tool that actually makes the policy work,” he said.  

“This is what is required, this is what the community needs to function, to stay open, to be economically contributing to the wider community as the prime minister wants. 

“We should be in front and forecasting these developments as Covid is going into its third year.”  

Mr McDonald also said the federal government’s plan to give concession-card holders ten free tests over a three-month period was insufficient, saying the policy amounted to “grandstanding”. 

“It’s such an Oliver Twist model. This isn’t a big favour,” he said.  

“More and more daily life will rely on rapid antigen testing, so … when it comes to ten over three months, it’s hardly a drop in the ocean.” 

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