The impact of the coronavirus outbreak in aged care facilities warrants a fuller inquiry than can be conducted by the current royal commission, its chair says.
Tony Pagone QC says the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety cannot conduct a full inquiry into the impact of the pandemic on the sector.
"We simply do not have the resources or time to conduct an inquiry that would do justice to the issues which have arisen so far and continue to change and develop," Mr Pagone said on Thursday.
"The issues associated with the impacts of COVID-19 in aged care warrant an inquiry of their own."
Mr Pagone issued the statement in an attempt to temper public expectations about the royal commission's August hearing into the aged care sector's response to COVID-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said the royal commission would have "absolute ability to go into the intricacies" of the coronavirus outbreaks in aged care facilities.
Mr Pagone said the royal commission was not able nor intending to conduct a full inquiry into the impact of the pandemic on aged care.
He said the hearing would look at lessons to be learnt about the level of preparedness for a major infectious disease outbreak in aged care and whether the COVID-19 response appropriately balanced the needs of everyone affected by the outbreaks.
"Our inquiries may reveal, as seems likely, that there needs to be a fuller and more forensic inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 in aged care," he said.
"Such an inquiry would need adequate time and resources extending beyond the time frame available to us."
Mr Pagone said it was up to the government to decide if such an inquiry should be undertaken.
"The impact of COVID-19 on Australia's aged care sector is a national tragedy," Mr Pagone said.
"It is a human tragedy. At the moment, that tragedy is unfolding daily."
The royal commission's August 10-13 hearing will not specifically focus on the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Victoria, where 57 aged care residents have died.
There are 877 active coronavirus cases connected to outbreaks in Victorian aged care facilities.
Australian Associated Press