Jul 26, 2022

Aged care needs a lot more than ADF support to address staff shortages

Aged care needs a lot more than ADF support to address staff shortages

News of a one-month extension of Australian Defence Force (ADF) workforce support has been welcomed by the aged care sector, but providers and unions warn that solutions to staff shortages currently being put forward by Government are simply not enough to make a significant impact on the aged care workforce crisis.

Yesterday, the Federal Government announced that it would be extending ADF support for aged care until 30 September 2022 and deploy more than 200 additional personnel to assist struggling services.

Although previously aged care support consisted of ADF Medical Augmentation Teams, these additional troops will comprise of Composite Medical teams consisting of up to 12 teams of six which include two clinical and four general duties personnel.

In addition to ADF support, the Federal Government also announced that its existing commercial surge workforce would remain contracted until the end of next year to help manage COVID-19 outbreaks throughout winter.

While all forms of assistance are welcomed by those in the aged care sector, reactions by industry figures indicate that these strategies are simply not enough to impact the fortunes of an industry stretched far beyond its means.

In the wake of yesterday’s announcements, Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Paul Sadler, revealed the enormity of staffing issues plaguing the aged care sector to The Guardian.

“In residential aged care, that’s about 27,000 workers not available, and in home care another 15,000 unavailable. So the numbers are quite stark.”

Mr Sadler also said that ACCPA had been contacted by providers that are missing significantly more than 10% of their workforce. This includes one Queensland-based provider that claims to be missing 40% of available staff.

Staff support by the ADF and health contractors like Aspen Medical make up a large component of the Government’s surge workforce program, but Mr Sadler clarified that staff being provided by the private contractors are the same staff that the industry already relies on.

Despite the ongoing need for assistance across the aged care sector, last week, only 24 ADF personnel were reported to be assisting the aged care sector. 

In the weeks prior to that, Mr Sadler told HelloCare that there were as few as 15 ADF personnel assisting aged care services across the country.

This previous low deployment of ADF personnel has baffled industry leaders including Federal Secretary for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Annie Butler.

Speaking to The Guardian, Ms Butler claimed that the low numbers may be a result of “confusion” by aged care services on how to request ADF assistance, as well as a reluctance by providers to admit that they were in need of help. 

Speaking with ABC Radio AM yesterday, Aged Care Minister, Anika Wells, provided a grim synopsis of the current situation facing aged care providers.

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  1. Staff are leaving aged care. I have left. We are sick of being overworked, underpaid, undervalued and abused. I have walked away for my own mental health. A change of attitude is what is needed.

  2. Obviously, the experimental injections haven’t worked. Staff and residents are still getting sick. State and federal politicians greatly reduced staff numbers by mandate. Many more have resigned due to burn out. Very few people want to do the job any more due to poor pay and conditions. It’s no use blaming just the previous federal government. All politicians, media and aged care organisations have contributed to the problem. I can legally help aged and disability people, wich I continue to do but can no longer be paid for my efforts. It seems no one really cares about the needs of others any more.

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