A joint open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the state of the aged care sector was published today by the Australian Aged Care Collaboration and several unions.
The letter calls on the government to take action immediately to fix cracks in the aged care system that they say "are now being turned into chasms by the pandemic".
"Older Australians deserve better. Those who care for them demand better," the letter reads.
Signed by the AACC and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation, Health Services Union, United Workers Union and Australian Workers Union, the letter calls on the government to fix problems in the areas of "workforce, operating costs and resilience".
The full statement is reproduced below:
"OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER FROM AGED CARE PROVIDERS AND UNIONS
Dear Prime Minister
At the start of this pandemic the aged care sector and your government agreed it was a national priority to do all we can to protect older Australians, and the passionate and dedicated people that care for them, safe from the coronavirus.
Sadly, two years on and three waves into the pandemic, aged care is in crisis.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety found that COVID-19 is “… the greatest challenge Australia’s aged care sector has faced.”
For the past two years aged care services and staff have been on the frontline working day and night in the most challenging situations, doing everything they can, often with limited resources, to keep people safe. Older Australians and their families have endured wave after wave of the pandemic. Our staff and services have risen to this challenge despite the huge cost to themselves and their families.
We have kept Government informed of the impacts of the pandemic on aged care services and proactively put forward solutions to address them. Although there is much that has been done to respond to the presenting issues, regrettably, much of the government’s response has fallen short of what Australia’s older people in care have needed. Older people, their families and our aged care workers are all suffering as a consequence.
Sadly, the tragic human cost of this crisis continues to grow.
You called a Royal Commission into the aged care system in to ‘assure community and industry that there are no systemic problems’ impacting quality and safety. The Royal Commission found that ‘the Australian aged care system is unacceptable and unsustainable’ due in large part to ‘fundamental systemic flaws’. Most notably, with regards to a workforce that is undervalued, understaffed and underpaid, and services that are not funded to deliver all the care that is needed to the standards that are desired.
These fundamental issues which were cracks in the aged care system are now being turned into chasms by the pandemic.
Older Australians deserve better. Those who care for them demand better.
We call on your government to do the following:
- immediately lift staff wages as recommended by RC and publicly commit to fully funding the outcome of the FWC work value case process
- In addition to planned ADF support, immediately address critical staff and skills shortages
- Operating Costs: immediately increase subsidies paid to services to fund the increase in new operating costs incurred for improved infection prevention and protection measures
- Resilience: establish the proposed National Aged Care Covid Coordination Centre (NAT-ACCC) in partnership with States/Territory governments and the sector to ensure that aged care services are effectively resourced, enabled and supported to deal with future waves
As the pandemic continues, ensuring the staff on the frontline in aged care are resourced and enabled to effectively care for and protect older Australians is in your hands. As Prime Minister we call on you to work with us to resolve this crisis."
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