A coalition of Australia’s peak organisations representing aged care providers and workers is calling on the Federal Government to ensure the aged care workforce is vaccinated quickly.
The provider and the union groups said they have united after six months of calling for support to vaccinate the aged care workforce to say that government failures have caused low vaccination rates, not workers.
The group is calling on the Morrison Government to implement five principles into a quick and safe aged care workforce rollout strategy using the Pfizer vaccine only.
The principles are:
- ensure client, resident and worker safety
- government-funded workplace vaccination or prioritised access to providers near workplaces
- paid leave to access vaccinations and recover from side effects
- targeted vaccine education and communication
- transparency and accountability on vaccine data and supply.
The united force includes the Australian Aged Care Collaboration members Aged & Community Services Australia, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia and UnitingCare Australia, and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Australian Workers’ Union, United Workers Union, Health Services Union, Australian Services Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Leading Age Services Australia CEO and AACC spokesperson Sean Rooney said provider groups have been calling on the government to work with the sector to ensure aged care residents and staff were vaccinated as efficiently, effectively and safely as possible since January.
“It has been extremely frustrating and disappointing to have the solutions developed by the sector to achieve this, including how to best enable and support the vaccine program to include staff being vaccinated on site at aged care facilities be ignored by government,” Mr Rooney told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The government flagged aged care as a national priority and said vaccinations would be completed by the end of March but resident vaccinations have just been completed, only a third of aged care home staff have received theirs and it is unclear where home care workers stand, he said.
Mr Rooney said a rollout strategy including the five principles was crucial to ensuring the aged care workforce could access a vaccination quickly and safely and receive time to recover from any side effects without losing any wages.
“Given the pace of the rollout to date, we are also seeking clear communication from the government on availability of supplies and timing as to when staff can be safely and efficiently vaccinated,” Mr Rooney said.
“The Department of Health has said that staff can get vaccinated at their local GP or a vaccination hub but this has led to delays. This is not good enough,” Mr Rooney said.
ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler echoed Mr Rooney’s frustrations regarding the rollout.
“We’re angry that the government is trying to blame workers for its own failure to manage the COVID-19 vaccination rollout both in aged care and across the community,” Ms Butler said in a statement.
Fellow AACC spokesperson and CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia Patricia Sparrow said it should be simple for aged care staff to get their vaccination.
“Aged care workers should be a top priority. They shouldn’t be left to navigate the vaccine ‘hunger games’ like everyone else,” Ms Sparrow said in a statement.
United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith said “it’s devastating for older Australians that once more we are at crisis point before serious attention is being paid to their safety and the safety of those who care for them.”
AAA has sought comment from Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt.