Industry calls for clarity and resources for ‘high stakes’ COVID-19 staffing

Aged care operators have called for details around the funding and resourcing arrangements for surge staffing and fill-in workers following new COVID-19 restrictions.

As concern about the spread of COVID-19 into aged care facilities grows, aged care provider groups Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) and Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) have confirmed they are working to finalise and implement new restrictions on staff across multiple aged care sites.

Care workers in Victoria are restricted to working at one site, instead of doing shifts across multiple facilities, with measures to be put in place to ensure no worker is worse off.

In a statement released yesterday, LASA and ACSA said they would continue to work with government to roll out the new measures.

“[We] are committed to addressing the issue of workers unintentionally spreading COVID-19 between aged care facilities,” the peak bodies said.

“This is a high stakes issue due to the vulnerable people we care for. In hotspot areas, movement of people must be kept to a minimum and this presents a significant challenge for aged care as many of our passionate staff work at more than one location.”

The latest government figures show there have been 181 confirmed cases in Australian residential care facilities. Thirty-eight people have died. Older people are considered to be among the most vulnerable to severe COVID-19. 

Leading Age Services Australia’s manager of policy and advocacy, Tim Hicks, said they strongly supported the restrictions but called for surge workforce capacity and funding to cover the additional costs of training, PPE, cleaning and screening.

“Aged care services are doing the best they can to keep the people in care, and the people who care, safe from harm but they need extra help,” he told Inside Ageing.

“The pernicious nature of coronavirus means we can mitigate the threat as much as possible but we cannot eliminate the risk. Complacency can kill.

“While federal funding is available to cover the costs of outbreak response, it is critical aged care can afford to avoid outbreaks in the first place.”

The union representing some aged care workers, the Health Workers Union, has said more than half their member workforce in aged care were casual or part-time.

In Victoria, aged care representatives have agreed principles and processes to adhere to the worker restrictions.

The Australian Government has declared it will provide funding to residential and home care providers to cover entitlements for workers, train additional staff to cover workers who are self-isolating, and provide accommodation for workers who live or work in hotspot areas so they can continue to work.

Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday said almost 50 care facilities had confirmed cases and five testing teams would be created for rapid checks and contact tracing.

“This is an absolutely critical step forward,” he said.

“Tracing of cases of those coming in to aged care facilities in Victoria, with our support and consent, is announced additional but difficult and challenging restrictions on visitation, which, whilst we would never want, we recognise they are necessary.”


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