Integratedliving Australia told The Guardian that around 8% of its home care workforce was either infected with COVID-19 or in isolation after being exposed. Last week 6% of their workforce was out.
Integratedliving’s clients have a range of needs and are on commonwealth home support programs, home care packages and recipients of the NDIS.
As the organisation was forced to scale back services, they have been asking family members to take over some duties so staff could be prioritised where they are most needed.
Indra Arunachalam, CEO of Integratedliving, told The Guardian, “We’re having the conversation with clients to delay domestic assistance because we need to divert staff to do the critical issues such as medication support, personal care, nursing, meals and things like that.
“We are concerned that we cannot sustain this level of effort and resourcing to keep our clients and staff safe,” she said.
The organisation has also not been able to find enough rapid antigen tests to alleviate some of the staffing pressure. By contrast, residential aged care providers have been given priority access to commonwealth RAT supplies.
“Given the PCR tests were made available free under Medicare for all Australians, the expectation was that the RATs would follow a similar sort of path,” Arunachalam said.
“It’s really frustrating that there’s been a lack of a consistent national approach that has actually been thought through – and not just for the aged care sector or the health care sector – but in all sectors, when we are all worried in the community.”
Paul Sadler, CEO of the aged care peak body Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), said staff shortages were having an impact on home care providers’ ability to provide “the basic care that older people need”.
He said difficult choices are having to be made.
“We have aged care homes, we have home care services who are telling us they’ve lost anywhere between five and 30% of their staff.
“How you’re meant to maintain quality of care for older people when you have a third or more of your staff knocked out is anybody’s guess,” Mr Sadler told The Guardian.
Federal Labor’s shadow minister for senior Australians, Claire O’Neil, said aged care providers are telling her the situation is “genuinely diabolical”.
“I’ve had providers tell me that they’ve been involved in aged care for 40 years and they’ve never seen a situation as bad as it is today, and other providers saying that they wouldn’t be surprised if providers actually left the sector and stopped providing services altogether.”
Ms O’Neil added, “There is an awareness right now that we’re not providing safe care to these frail and vulnerable people and providers don’t want to be in a position to do that.”
Have your home care services been affected by staff shortages? Share your experiences in the comments below or email [email protected]