Unions have joined forces with the Australian Aged Care Collaboration to defend aged care workers against criticism, saying it is Government failures that have caused low vaccination rates – not workers.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration – a coalition of peak organisations for aged care employer groups – has joined with the ANMF, AWU, UWU, HSU, ASU and the ACTU to demand the Morrison Government implement the five principles into a rollout strategy that will support aged care workers to be vaccinated quickly and safely using the Pfizer vaccine only.
This includes prioritisation for aged care workers at vaccination sites near their workplaces and transparency and accountability on vaccine data and supply.
While aged care workers were included in group 1A for priority access to the vaccine, barriers to access due to shortages and limited locations where vaccines were being offered, prevented many from being able to get in early.
Some of the largest aged care operators say they have requested onsite vaccination hubs established for their employees to be vaccinated at work, however, that will require dedicated nurses trained in drawing and administering the vaccine, as well as appropriate onsite storage.
RSL LifeCare has admitted only 27% of its staff have received a first dose and 15% are fully vaccinated across the 28 residential care homes it operates in NSW and the ACT.
CEO Graham Millett, said the delay is due to a lack of appointments at vaccination hubs and wants pop up clinics run at aged care facilities.
“This is a real hurdle that the government needs to overcome to ensure all aged care workers are entirely vaccinated,” he said.
“The way to achieve this is to have clinics established on-site. This approach has worked for residents and there is no reason it will not work for staff.”
In some areas, the hourly rate for nurses trained in handing the COVID vaccines has reached around $90 per hour and with shortages of people appropriately trained, more needs to be done to address this barrier, one CEO told Inside Ageing.
Meanwhile, the unlikely alliance between Unions, providers and peak bodies, may offer some hope to aged care workers wanting to be vaccinated.
“Aged care workers and their unions continue to be frustrated by the Federal Government’s failure on the aged care vaccine rollout, that has left their lives and those that they care for in danger,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.
“The Federal Government must act urgently to mitigate the risk at this critical time before we see another wave of COVID-19 sweeping through the nation’s aged care facilities.”