$101M funding to surge staffing for aged-care emergencies

Posted: 12th Mar

Nursing home “surge” staff will be deployed to facilities where an ­urgent health response is required under a $101m government funding commitment to counter the impact of coronavirus on older Australians.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the new funding, part of a $2.4bn COVID-19 healthcare response, would also provide a program to upskill aged-care workers in infection control and ensure nursing home residents can access pathology services on site for potential virus cases.

“Our objective is to ensure Australia’s aged-care sector is ready and able to protect our most vulnerable,” Senator Colbeck said. “It remains our highest priority.

“While those aged over 70 are at greater risk from the virus, it’s important to understand Australia has a robust health system.”

He said the aged-care sector was well-practised in implementing infectious disease guidelines.

Aged-care representatives met with government officials last week to lay out their concerns in relation to how the coronavirus might affect nursing homes and those receiving aged-care services in their own homes, and will this week further discuss current issues in an online forum.

The sector was broadly supportive of the government’s funding package, but warned that more support might be required as the virus’s reach spreads.

“This is a strong start,” Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said. “We applaud the government’s timely action to bolster protection for some of our most vulnerable Australians and the dedicated workforce who care for them.”

Catholic Health Australia chief executive Pat Garcia said it was a good initial step “but at this stage we just don’t know if that is going to be enough to protect the 282,000 Australians who are currently in residential aged care”.

“We hope the government will keep an open mind when it comes to the level of funding required to deal with a major outbreak in Australia’s aged-care homes.”

Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Pat Sparrow said: “We are pleased that aged care was identified as one of the four key pillars in today’s ­demand-driven health package.

“The support for testing and staffing is really important and welcomed, and a lot of the other measures will assist elderly people being cared for at home.”

Senator Colbeck said a $30m national communication plan would also support older Australians and aged-care workers in their understanding of the impact of coronavirus and how best to ­ensure their personal safety.

Source: The Australian - https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/101m-puts-staff-to-work-on-agedcare-emergencies/news-story/d53726c257c69139ea69b6d831327620