Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel will continue to support the aged care sector for another two months in a bid to ease the pressure of staffing shortages as the sector braces itself for an expected rise in COVID-19 infections.
ADF personnel were first deployed to assist aged care homes in February to facilities experiencing significant pressures battling COVID-19 outbreaks.
Close to 500 Australian aged care services have benefitted from ADF support thus far, but with assistance slated to end in only a fortnight, last night’s announcement by Defence Minister, Richard Marles, has provided some much needed relief to embattled aged care providers.
“It’s obviously important to note that this is not a long-term solution.”
In addition to the extended support and 250 additional personnel, the Federal Government also announced that its existing commercial surge workforce would remain contracted until the end of next year.
The most recent figures indicate that 983 of the nation’s aged care homes are currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
Government health experts have warned that the impact of Omicron sub-variants is likely to increase in the coming weeks and place even greater pressure on the already depleted aged care workforce.
In a show of unity with the struggling sector, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells recently revealed that she will forgo the opportunity to attend the Commonwealth Games in her dual role as Sports Minister and will instead remain focused on safeguarding aged care across the winter months.
Speaking with ABC Radio AM this morning, Minister Wells discussed the daunting challenge that COVID outbreaks present to both aged care providers and the Government.
“These shortages are not new. These shortages speak to the years of neglect by the previous Government. And so by the same token, while I’ve got to do everything I can to get us through this winter wave, which is bringing up the numbers of the ADF with the generosity of the Defence Department allowing us to do that.
“My broader work is to reform aged care and make sure that we get through in a way that the system is sustainable and that we don’t face this again next winter.”
According to Minister Wells, the latest figures indicate that more than 6,000 aged care residents and 3,250 staff are currently infected with COVID-19.