As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 widely infiltrates the country’s aged care facilities, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has expressed its concern that the Morrison Government has no real plan to protect vulnerable nursing home residents and staff during the pandemic.
With almost 1400 residents and just over 1800 staff currently classified as active cases, the ANMF is concerned that hundreds of private aged care facilities are still waiting for booster vaccinations and rapid antigen tests (RAT).
COVID-positive isolation regulations have also led to chronic staff shortages and dangerously excessive workloads, with increasing numbers of residents forced to be locked-in their rooms without visitors.
Dangerously low staffing levels are leading to missed care.
The ANMF says this was all preventable, had there had been proper planning.
ANMF members are reporting only three staff for up to 120 residents in some cases and the federation says this is seriously unsafe and entirely unacceptable.
“With Omicron spreading so rapidly throughout the community, our frontline nurses and carers are completely exhausted and burnt out, they’ve been crying out for help, but yet again, the Morrison Government has abandoned aged care residents and staff,” ANMF acting federal secretary, Lori-Anne Sharp, said on Wednesday.
“We’re dismayed that despite the tragedies in aged care during previous outbreaks, the Government has decided to stand-back and ‘let it rip’, without securing proper supplies of vital booster shots, RATs and personal protective equipment (PPE) for nursing homes.
“The Morrison Government should have been more prepared.
“It’s like nothing has been learnt from the second wave in 2020, when tragically, 678 lives were lost.”
The ANMF says the Federal Government has completely failed to plan for adequate surge workforce capacity and invest in staff despite knowing the chronic understaffing that has overwhelmed the sector for a decade and further highlighted by the Aged Care Royal Commission.
“Sadly, it’s apparent that nursing homes aren’t prepared for the Omicron wave, even though back in August, Minister Hunt declared that RAT would be available in aged care facilities.
“As we know, RAT, in particular, is a useful tool in risk control and the lack of RATs is resulting in chronic staff shortages and putting nurses, carers, and the elderly residents they care for, at further risk of contracting COVID-19 and missing out on urgently needed care regardless of COVID-19 status,” Sharp said.
“We’re urging the Morrison Government to act as a matter of urgency and ensure that aged care residents and staff get the protection they so desperately need in the face this latest COVID-19 wave.
“Staff, residents, and their families deserve so much more.”