Catholic Health Australia (CHA) is warning dozens of aged care homes around Australia are on the verge of collapse due to the heavy drain on their already-stretched finances created by the resurgence of COVID.
The number of homes affected by an outbreak has increased from 210 at the beginning of March 2022 to 846 in the latest recorded period. Resident cases have similarly risen from 1618 to 6,361 over the same period, while staff cases have risen from 1,297 to 5,243.
The 2022 – 23 Federal budget has assumed in its planning a new wave of Covid-19 is likely to hit Australia this winter, further adding to high rates of absenteeism amongst workers.
The Government has allocated $964.9 million to secure additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for the National Medical Stockpile. Supplies of facemasks, face shields, gloves, gowns and goggles have been secured to assist in outbreak management, particularly at residential aged care facilities (RACFs) and other frontline health service sites.
CHA – the peak body that represents the largest grouping of aged care homes in Australia – is getting reports from members that the current situation is unsustainable financially.
CHA Strategy & Mission Director Brigid Meney is warning that although the Commonwealth reimburses costs when there is an outbreak, the extra costs of infection prevention are not covered.
“Around half the aged care homes in Australia are only barely able to make ends meet and now the extra costs associated with this new wave of COVID are going to push them over the edge,” Ms Meney said.
“Buying and managing PPE inventories and disposal, extra measures for ensuring safer visitations, additional costs associated with disruptions to rosters due to staff infections, co-ordination of up-to-date vaccinations – all of this costs money that’s just not available readily within the budgets of most homes.
“Homes in regional areas are particularly vulnerable given how precarious most were pre-pandemic. 60 per cent of regional are currently running at a loss, which you obviously just can’t sustain for long.
“We desperately need the Commonwealth to create extra funding streams for homes to manage this and future waves of COVID-19. We know from bitter experience that more deaths follow hard on the heels of rising case numbers,” Ms Meney added.