The aged care industry is calling for a 10 figure rescue package to help keep the 1.3 million care recipients and 360,000 workers in the sector safe through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today’s united proposal comes from seven national organisations representing aged care providers – Aged & Community Services Australia, Aged Care Guild, Anglicare Australia, Baptistcare Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia and UnitingCare Australia.
“Many providers were already at risk of collapse prior to the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis is pushing us even closer to breaking point,” they said in a statement.
They are asking for:
- $15 per resident per day for six months to meet direct care costs ($546 million)
- $10 per home care client per day for six months to meet increased direct care ($250 million)
- $500 million pool of funds for information technology measures and training to reduce social isolation and loneliness
- a pandemic workforce fund to support staff forced to isolate and reduce infection risk to older Australians
- security for accommodation bonds for providers as occupancy falls
- improvements to the Aged Care Funding Instrument to keep providers financially viable and available
The group of organisations said they have approached the Federal Government for a considerable time but the lack of response to the underlying financial situation has prompted the rescue package proposal.
Package critical to continue care, viability
The rescue support package outlines measures to help prepare aged care providers for what is coming, said Nicole Hornsby, executive director of Baptistcare Australia, which represents Baptist community service organisations nationally.
“Those measures look at protecting residential aged care residents from COVID-19, it looks at providing more flexible support for home care recipients and it looks at trying to keep people connected,” Ms Hornsby told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“We anticipate that this is going to go on for months and so we need to make sure that we put these supports in place now to safeguard against any further deterioration of health and wellbeing of residents and clients that we are caring for and the viability of providers that are providing that care,” she said.
An emergency intervention is critical, said Patricia Sparrow, CEO of Aged & Community Services Australia, which represents charitable aged care providers.
“We know that older Australians over 70 and those in our care who are often over 80 with complex care conditions, who are at home or in residential aged care, are the most vulnerable to this awful virus and the absolute criticality of that is keeping those people safe,” Ms Sparrow told AAA.
The sector is in a unique position compared to other industries because there are opportunities to employ staff, she said.
“This will also be about being able to retrain and place workers in aged care and that’s a positive part of it,” Ms Sparrow said.
The sector requires additional resources to stay afloat, said Pat Garcia, CEO of Catholic Health Australia, which represents catholic aged care providers.
“Many of our operators were already running at a loss before COVID-19 struck but the imposition of new protocols and the increase in staffing that attends them is pushing many of them to the brink financially,” Mr Garcia told AAA.
The tragic consequences overseas show what happens when there is inadequate protection of aged care residents, he said.
“That cannot be allowed to happen in Australia,” he said.
“Ultimately government has to ask itself the question – what price are they are prepared to pay for the safety of our most vulnerable during this time?”