The Federal Government has announced aged care workforce contingency measures for providers to ensure continuity of aged care services during COVID-19.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said the joint strategy with healthcare solutions provider Aspen Medical and workforce platform Mable aimed to strengthen the workforce and fill any staffing gaps.

The emergency contingency measures announced on Sunday include:

  • emergency response teams on standby to response to a significant outbreak in a residential aged care facility
  • locums to support aged care providers in remote Australia unable to source staff
  • access to a surge workforce through the online platform Mable.
Richard Colbeck

The initiatives will be funded through the $101 million COVID-19 Aged Care Support program announced on March 11.

The program also supports aged care providers to cover costs for additional staff due to COVID-19 and workers required to self-isolate.

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said it was absolutely critical to continue to have a strong aged care workforce and no gaps in care, particularly in regional and remote areas.

“As unlikely as it might be, we have plans in place for worst case scenarios where an outbreak in aged care facilities mean local staff are unable to continue to provide care due to an infection in the service,” Mr Colbeck said.

Response teams, nurses, locums on standby

The Department of Health has engaged Aspen Medical to provide intensive support through emergency response teams where a residential aged care facility does not have the capacity or capability to continue delivering services due to the impact of COVID-19.

Nurse first responders are on standby in each state and territory and will provide immediate advice over the phone and be on site within 24 hours.

The nurse first responder will assess the situation at the facility with management to determine workforce requirements and arrange for appropriate staff to be deployed for an initial period of 16 days.

This measure aims to allow a facility to continue delivering quality aged care services.

The department has also engaged Aspen Medical to have remote locums available for providers in remote locations.

If there is an infection in their service, remote providers will be able access temporary surge workforce support if they are unable to find staff through their usual channels.

Access to a surge workforce is also available through the online platform Mable to help providers unable to fill critical roles because of infection or staff self-isolating (read more here).

Mr Colbeck said the contingency measures were temporary and providers must show they’ve exhausted usual recruitment channels first.

“There’s every chance these extraordinary measures won’t be required in full, but it’s vital we are ready,” he said.

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