As the aged care sector faces ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks and staff shortages, providers want the Australian Defence Force called in to assist.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison says defence personnel are “not a surrogate aged care workforce”.
More than 1000 aged care homes in Australia are dealing with an outbreak of Omicron infections and unions say they expect many more to be affected in coming days.
In a joint statement, aged care providers and health worker unions said older people were missing out on essential care because of the workforce crisis.
“Resignations due to fatigue and feeling undervalued have begun,” the statement said.
“There is no adequate staffing safety net.”
Morrison acknowledged the biggest challenge facing the aged care sector was workforce shortages.
He told reporters in Canberra many of the outbreaks involved staff members rather than residents.
But he said deploying the defence force to help in aged care would not solve the workforce shortage.
“(The ADF) can’t just make those problems go away, there will continue to be challenges in aged care,” he said on Wednesday.
“That is a problem of the virus and it’s a problem that has been seen in many jurisdictions.”
On Tuesday, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced private hospital staff may be called in to assist the aged care sector.
But unions and providers say they are still waiting for details on when and how that program will work.
“To deliver quality care, we need urgent action from the federal government and a wage boost to secure the workforce in the form of a COVID-19 wage payment paid directly to workers,” the statement said.