5 March 2020
COVID-19 poses significant threats to an already precarious aged care sector workforce, and to vulnerable residents of aged care homes.
The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Foundation (ANMF) have warned that urgent measures are needed to increase the numbers of qualified nurses and carers working in the sector.
ACCR backs those calls, and also supports calls for more workers to be provided with adequate leave entitlements and financial support.
Well paid, well trained staff in secure jobs are critical to the security and safety of all residents. Currently, the sector is reliant on a severely casualised workforce. Casual and contract workers without access to sick leave will suffer financial losses if unable to work, or if they are forced into quarantine. Even when workers do have access to leave provisions, these are likely to be inadequate.
This introduces a disincentive for workers to stay home, increasing health risks for all.
Workers must not be expected to carry the burden of enforced quarantines – governments and providers must ensure that these workers are paid if they are required to remain at home for the safety of residents.
The care needs of residents are likely to increase. Aged care providers are already running their centres with dangerous levels of understaffing. Providers’ failure to sufficiently scale up staffing in the face of the virus will have severe – and even fatal – implications for all residents. It will also put further stress on the hospital system due to transfers of residents that could be treated by nurses in centres.