Access to personal protective equipment and maintaining an adequate number of staff are among key workforce concerns aged care providers raised at a recent forum, provider peak bodies tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

Approximately 70 aged care stakeholders including representatives of peak bodies, providers, workers, consumers and experts attended the Department of Health’s Aged Care COVID-19 Preparedness Forum on Friday (read our story here).

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow said the forum provided an opportunity to share key issues and concerns surrounding COVID-19.

For providers that includes making sure personal protective equipment is available to aged care services, she said.

“One of the key elements of staff feeling confident and being able to come to work is if they have that protective equipment,” Ms Sparrow told AAA.

Pat Sparrow

“Naturally, workers are feeling nervous and we’re trying to make sure that they get the information that they need to feel confident to be able to come to work and know they will be ok,” she said.

She said they also talked about increased delivery of infection control and prevention training.

Aged care providers are currently screening all visitors before they enter a facility, Ms Sparrow said.

“One of our key messages all through this is if you’re feeling unwell and if you’ve got any doubt, do not come in and visit given the risks that there are for older people,” she said.

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney, who was also at the forum, said Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy stressed the effectiveness of PPE and infection control practices in reducing the risk of infection.

“The Chief Medical Officer gave assurance that as long as the personal protective equipment and infection controls protocols are taken, than the risk of infection and transmission is significantly diminished,” Mr Rooney told AAA.

Options to increase workforce shortages

Mr Rooney said they discussed utilising international workers to increase the number of people in the workforce in the event that more staff are required.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney
Sean Rooney

“We know that we have a number of workers in the sector that are international workers on a visa, and they’re allowed under current controls to work up to 20 hours a week. We could look to increase the hours that they are available to work,” he said.

Mr Rooney said they also talked about the potential need to call on recent graduates and current students of primary, acute or aged care to conduct specific tasks in the event of workforce shortages.

However, he said nothing was agreed and it was unclear which options if any will be implemented, he said.

Mr Rooney said COVID-19 was a community-wide issue that required responsibility from all parties.

“We are certainly here to protect older Australians and the people that care for them and that’s not just the role for the sector, it’s a role for the entire community, so personal responsibility is really important,” Mr Rooney said.

Staff paramount to operations

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said the welfare of aged care residents relied on the availability of staff.

Richard Colbeck

“There is no reason for staff at aged care centres to avoid going to work unless they are showing symptoms, have been in contact with somebody showing symptoms or have been specifically ordered to isolate,” Mr Colbeck said.

“Providers deal with infection control in aged care centres regularly.”

He said the COVID-19 Plan outlines current and planned measures.

“State and territory governments have public health systems which promote the safety and security of people in aged care settings, and support outbreak investigation and management in residential aged care facilities,” he said.

Mr Colbeck said providers have been contacted with information to pass to staff, residents and their families.

The forum also discussed the importance of aged care providers to:

  • maintain infection control protocols
  • activate their facility’s COVID-19 emergency response plan
  • finalise arrangements for seasonal flu vaccinations
  • regularly communicate with aged care consumers and families.

Access the COVID-19 Plan here.

Useful resources

Read also

Commission cracks down on known poor hygiene performers

Comment below to have your say on this story

Subscribe to Australian Ageing Agenda magazine and sign up to the AAA newsletter

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

  1. What is the current recommended guideline to follow or in laymens term, how do we get help to assist HCP members that are in isolation or the village/home etc is under qurantine?

  2. This is the same Sean Rooney who was not able to answer the Royal commission when asked if RACF should have air conditioning he was not sure .

  3. Can the Department list the recommended Protective Equipment they refer to as many people have differing opinions on this, especially with regards to face masks?

  4. So where are all these extra staff coming from.

    In the one Aged Care Facility that had confirmed COVID-19 infections the government had to mobilise emergency carers as the regular staff began failing to turn up for their shifts, now expand that across the Aged Care Facilities across Australia.

    Currently we cannot get staff to fill sick leave on a daily basis.

    So once again where are these staff coming from to provide care during the COVID-19 Pandemic???

    The forcast is that this Pandemic could last for 20 plus weeks.

    Maybe the casual shoppies who don’t have any work.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.