The deadline for New South Wales aged care workers to receive the mandatory third COVID vaccine has been postponed due to concerns it would lead to more staff shortages in a sector already heavily impacted by a staffing crisis.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant made the decision to delay the 19 April deadline after calls were made for a reprieve.

“Workforce pressures remain the number one aged care concern, especially as COVID-19 outbreaks affect about 30 per cent of residential care homes in NSW again,” Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Paul Sadler said on Twitter.

Keen to point out that ACSA supports mandatory booster vaccinations, Mr Sadler added: “Staff take-up has been slower than last round. Extending the deadline is a practical step to avoid a cliff face impact on staff availability.”

Meanwhile, Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said LASA supported directions from health experts to keep people safe during the pandemic, including mandatory vaccination.

Sean Rooney

“The sector has worked diligently in often challenging circumstances to meet the deadline for worker vaccinations. The recently announced change to the timeline for worker vaccination recognises the challenges faced by many providers in maintaining staffing levels during the pandemic,” Mr Rooney told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“It is a pragmatic approach that will enable care to continue to be delivered whilst staff are encouraged to make arrangements to get their booster vaccination as soon as they can.”

According to NSW Health, the deadline deferment will enable aged care services to continue to provide residents “the required level of care”, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.  

However, director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong Kathy Eager said the move risked aggravating staff shortages in the long term.

“Without boosters more aged care workers and residents will get COVID. That will exacerbate workforce shortages,” she said on Twitter. “Aged care has to break the COVID cycle as part of solving its workforce problems.”

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