Yet, the government has continued to defend its management of the crisis, with the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, on February 2 saying aged care is performing “extremely well” despite the Omicron outbreak.
He said in 2020 there were 28,000 COVID-19 cases in Australia, of which 2,051 were in aged care – 7.2% of total cases.
But of the 1.8 million COVID-19 cases as of February 2, only 10,500, or only 0.58%, were in aged care.
Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) Chief Executive Officer, Sean Rooney told The Guardian that aged care staff and management have done “extremely well”, and it’s “absolutely appropriate to acknowledge this whenever we talk about the current situation”.
“And there is no doubt that there would have been fewer cases and fewer deaths if we had had enough RATs for daily screening of everyone, access to PCR tests where needed, access to surge workforce as promised, and reliable access to PPE.”
The Minister’s claim also did not line up with comments we received from HelloCare readers and members of our Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook.
So, we put the question to those on the frontline in aged care – members of the support group, who are exclusively aged care workers, and our LinkedIn followers, who largely represent aged care management.
HelloCare asked: Do you agree with the Morrison government that the aged care sector is coping “extremely well”?
At the time of writing, we received nearly 600 votes, with 97% telling us they ‘strongly disagree’ with the statement the aged care sector is doing “extremely well”.
Only 3% said they ‘agree’.
A survey conducted by CarePage for Business asking the same question found 95% disagree with the statement, and only 4% agree.
And 82% said low employee morale was the reason (respondents could choose more than one option), while 64% said lack of consistent national government approach was the reason the sector was not doing well.
Government management of Omicron and RAT and PPE shortages were other factors attributed to the sector’s woes.
“One staff [member] to 62 residents during an outbreak … Yeah, coping really well,” wrote one aged care worker, who responded to the survey with more than a hint of irony.
She said staff were in tears and they’ve lodged a complaint with the regulator.
Many said it might be helpful if politicians spent time ‘on the floor’ to witness first-hand the challenges aged care workers face on a daily basis.
They left comments noting staff shortages in all sectors of operation – care, laundry, kitchen, maintenance, a lack of PPE, higher costs, mandated vaccinations, a lack of mental health support, and low pay as reasons the sector was doing far from well.
While several noted that nothing has improved since the royal commission report was tabled one year ago this week (March 1).