Home | COVID-19 | Govt unveils ‘winter plan’ as sector braces for third wave
Around 31 per cent of Australia's aged care homes are managing Covid outbreaks. Picture: Supplied.

Govt unveils ‘winter plan’ as sector braces for third wave

The federal government has unveiled its plan to safeguard aged care homes from rising Omicron and influenza cases as defence force support and restrictions wind back.

Last week, aged care minister Anika Wells met with aged care commissioner Janet Anderson, chief medical health officer Paul Kelly, deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd and health secretary Brendan Murphy.

Five key measures developed to protect residents included a targeted booster rollout and renewed infection control training for staff.

The government said fourth dose uptake remains high, with 70 per cent of aged care residents fully vaccinated.

Wells said the health department has stockpiled antiviral medications and PPE gear to dispatch to providers across the country.

"Unlike previous winters when everyone was scrambling, everyone was in a reactive mode. Those stock issues are not there this time. Stock is waiting at facilities ready for use," Wells told ABC Radio.

The Albanese government also reinstated Covid-19 disaster payments for casual workers until the end of September, following a snap national cabinet meeting held last week.

Interim chief of the Aged and Community Care Providers Association Paul Sadler welcomed the support but said workforce availability was a chief concern.

“The extension until the end of September of pandemic leave payments for casual workers will provide assurance to aged care workers that they can safely isolate while ill and be able to support themselves and their families," he said.

"However, we are disappointed there has not been any additional funding commitment for
infection prevention measures for residential and home care providers, or in relation to surge workforce supply."

At the height of the Omicron wave, providers had between 30 and 50 per cent of their workforce absent due to Covid infection.

Around 1,700 defence force personnel sent to assist residential care homes in January are expected to be phased out by mid-August.

The new aged care minister has said the option to reuse the ADF will still "be available" if the chief medical officer advises it.

More than 5,200 aged care residents and 2,700 staff in Australia are currently infected with Covid-19.

Over 2,100 aged care residents have died from the virus this year, with 223 deaths in the past two weeks.

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