Ahead of the long-awaited federal election, aged care providers and peaks have urged action over a recent spread of COVID-19 as staff prepare to strike again on Friday.
Recent government data shows there have been over 350 COVID-19 related deaths in aged care homes since the federal election campaign began.
According to an analysis done by the United Workers Union, this comes to at least 60 deaths a week, as reported by the Guardian.
CEO of not-for-profit provider Peninsula Villages Colin Osborne said the recent spread of COVID-19 and pressures over past two years has left his staff "fatigued, exhausted and frustrated".
“We are seeing infiltration of infections in aged care homes. Anecdotally, we certainly noticed at Peninsula Village an escalation in the number of cases we were dealing with in the week after Mother’s day,” he told Aged Care Insite.
“The feedback from our staff is they are really, really working hard, and their workload is exacerbated by these outbreaks."
While restrictions have been relaxed for the broader community, the toll of Omicron has not eased for aged care workers and residents.
"How can we lose more than 350 senior Australians to COVID since the election campaign was launched and no one is talking about this?" United Workers Union Aged Care Director Carolyn Smith said on Thursday.
"The Omicron crisis continues to play havoc with active outbreaks in more than 750 aged care facilities, distressing locked-up aged care residents, devastating families and causing unbearable workloads for aged care workers."
Osborne, who employs more than 350 staff, said the next government must prioritise a wage rise for aged care workers – many of whom are working double shifts wearing full PPE.
“There are are a lot of things that need to be done to fix aged care, but for me the place where you have to break into the cycle to repair the sector is that it’s got to have a greater level of funding," Osborne said.
“There’s no doubt that if we as providers had more, we could do more for our residents and we could do more for our staff,” he said.
“But whoever gets in on Saturday needs to realise that water does not run uphill without a pump.”
If elected, Labor has pledged to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission to back pay rises for aged care workers based on increased skills.
While the Coalition has pledged billions of dollars towards the sector since the royal commission, it has said it will let the commission decide whether it will increase wages.
A report released on Tuesday by the UTS Ageing Research Collaborative said despite recent funding injections, the aged care industry is scrambling to improve its fate.
According to the data, just 5 per cent of residential facilities would be able to meet the average minimum staffing standards recommended by the royal commission.
It also showed over 60% of residential aged care homes are operating at a loss, with an average deficit of $11.34 per resident per day across all homes.
This comes as aged care workers in SA and Queensland plan to strike tomorrow to fight for better pay and conditions.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (ACCC) has called on the next government to direct an “emergency investment” to reduce pressure on cash-strapped providers and overworked staff.
“The next government must take immediate and ambitious action to resolve the dire situation plaguing Australia’s aged care industry,” a statement read.
“This comes as more and more aged care facilities in regional and remote communities are being forced to scale back or close.
“We need emergency investment alongside positive long term-reform [...] to make sure older people receive the care they deserve.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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