Australia’s leading aged care body has voiced concerns about what it says are major gaps in government coronavirus support for the aged care sector.
Leading Age Services Australia Acting Chief Advocate, Tim Hicks said deficiencies in personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, staffing, transfers and testing issues were unacceptable and required urgent action by the government.
“Despite positive recent announcements, there are major issues with the delivery of these measures and other important issues such as the transfer of COVID positive residents have not been adequately addressed,” Mr Hicks said.
“Providers are frustrated that they seem to have to work off media statements from governments rather than practical help in the deadly battle with COVID-19.
He said almost two weeks ago the Government promised millions of masks to aged care providers to help keep their residents safe.
“Despite this many providers report being turned away because they do not have outbreaks, and even services with confirmed cases are reporting unacceptable delays in having the PPE they requested delivered,” said Mr Hicks.
“The Commonwealth needs to follow through on their commitment and if they can’t provide required masks they need to fund providers to procure their own.”
Earlier this week the Government announced guiding principles for residential aged care to keep workers and residents safe by having aged care staff work at a single site only.
“The Government has promised support to deal with the financial cost of ensuring no workers are worse off, and filling any staffing gaps, but we have not yet seen any detail on what those measures will actually involve, causing immense confusion and distress among providers and staff.
“I know of one provider who has 38 shifts over a fortnight to fill – where are these staff going to come from?”
Mr Hicks said that while the aged care sector was pushing for hospital transfers for all positive cases from aged care, another alternative had been offered to the Victorian government and not accepted.
“If they cannot go to hospital, it is important that positive cases are moved to a location where they can be best cared for. Transfers are critical to reduce the risk for others in an aged care home,” he said.
He said aged care services had offered vacant sites to use as COVID-19 wards and had been turned down, while Public Health Units have been taking days to get to some aged care homes with positive cases.
“We acknowledge the announcement of 28 ADF and PHU teams to make this a 24-hour turnaround because it is critical for the safety of aged care recipients and staff,” said Mr Hicks.
“People are also waiting days for returned results and there appears to be no priority given for health care worker status.
“All of these issues mean the aged care sector, which had half of all services reporting a loss before COVID-19, is on the precipice, and government must come to the table or the consequences will be dire.”