With mounting calls surrounding the severe staff shortages in the sector, many say this announcement hasn’t come soon enough.
The ABC reports that 1,700 Defence personnel will be tasked with assisting the sector, these teams being split into three categories – logistical, clinical and general support.
The PM commented that the ADF, while not able to replace lost shifts, would assist with acute support.
“The Defence Force are not a surrogate workforce for the aged care sector,” Mr Morrison reiterated again.
“But they do and can and have provided quite targeted support in the aged care sector.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt also noted, “Whilst we are seeing a decrease in the number of active cases, we do know that there are significant pressures in specific facilities.”
After months of lobbying by a burnt out aged care workforce, Parliament looks to be responding. Mr Hunt stated that the support announced was also in “recognition” to the thousands of aged care workers who were fatigued.
After weeks of pressure, Defence support now to arrive
Information from capital hill shows that initially clinical teams of around 10, made up of at least one registered nurse, will be deployed to support first responders in aged care homes struggling with acute shortages of staff.
These teams will be backed up by general support groups, assisting in waste management, protective equipment organising and other necessary general duties.
The third group, the logistical teams, will be positioned to assist with staff planning and care.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton has weighed in saying that 24,000 ADF personnel have already assisted over the duration of Operation COVID assist.
Adding, “Hundreds of thousands involved in the [aged care] workforce need support and we’ll provide them with that support, but we can’t replace that workforce, nor would we want to try and do that.”
The PM noted that ADF support would assist in raising the quality of life for those residing in aged care facilities.
However, community groups, unions, human rights advocates and staff in facilities have long warned the government that seniors have been isolated for months with no end in sight, and have gone without basic services such as showers and appropriate care as Omicron has swept through facilities.
The government has resisted and questioned the pressure and plea to bring in the ADF for weeks, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison defending the time passed by saying that Monday’s announcement was underpinned by weeks of talks and organising with ADF chiefs.
Royal commissioner Lynelle Briggs argued on Friday that the sector was in turmoil due to the government’s failure to organise and pivot for ongoing COVID outbreaks.
The need for significant change has been acknowledged previously. The aged care royal commission stated that urgent work was necessary to support and improve the aged care workforce, when it handed down its findings in early 2021.
The numbers share a stark and unavoidable picture. More aged care residents have died from COVID-19 in the initial 31 days of January 2022, compared to the entirety of 2021.