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Thursday, June 30, 2022

AACC’s ‘Aged Care Situation Report’ a comfortless account of stresses facing providers, workers and residents

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Aged care providers are taking charge in appealing to government for reforms, issuing a ‘situation report’ on Thursday morning which paints a grim picture of an industry struggling to cope during the onslaught of the Omicron strain.

Perhaps its most sobering statistic, the report, presented by the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), reveals that 499 aged care residents have died with COVID in January 2022 alone; this is more than in the whole of 2021.

The report notes that deaths appear to have peaked, however the current seven-day average is now sitting at 35 deaths per day.

According to statistics collated by the Australian Aged Care Collaboration, 499 aged care residents have died in January 2022 alone, though mortality rates appear to have peaked.

In contrast, deaths within the older population receiving in-home care remain relatively unknown.

“There is no plausible official data on cases or deaths for clients receiving in-home and
community care, with just 18 cases added to official counts in January,” the report notes, however the AACC attempted to statistically model the potential case numbers.

“Data from a sample of about 27,000 clients across 10 providers found 134 client cases and 330 staff cases in January, suggesting perhaps 5000 client cases and 12,500 staff cases sector wide (assuming about 1 million total clients),” it reads.

Support from governments, both federal and state, is critical to ensuring aged care providers are able to better protect and provide care to vulnerable older Australians, the 17-page paper argues.

Within the document are 17 explicit recommendations to government, detailing the need for key supports such as:

  • Appropriate payments for aged care workers that reflect their additional effort and
    risks as they do all they can to keep residents and clients safe from COVID19.
  • Better surge workforce arrangements to ensure quality and services are maintained
    in the current and future COVID19 waves.
  • Funding to cover the increased costs providers are incurring in implementing
    measures to protect residents, clients and staff.
  • Reliable supplies and more efficient distribution of RATs and PPE.
  • Better data on infections and vaccinations so risks can be better managed.

“Aged care providers in residential and home and community care are doing all they can to maintain care and support for their residents and clients while keeping them safe from infection in the face of severe staff shortages and a lack of crucial resources, like PPE and RATs,” an AACC spokesperson says.

“There is only so much aged care providers can do as they balance daily the need to maintain infection control measures, while continuing to provide essential services and manage the effects that isolation has on the wellbeing of people in care.”

Furthermore, the AACC is seeking clarification on the status of oral anti-viral treatments, molnupiravir and the combination treatment nirmatrelvir/ritonavir, which were provisionally approved by the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) on January 20.

“These treatments have the potential to work with vaccination to significantly reduce the risk of COVID-19 to older Australians,” the report reads.

“Statements made at the time of approval said that doses had been ordered for Australia and would be available within ‘weeks’. However, there is no further clarity on when these doses are delivered.”

There has also been no guidance from the department as yet as to how older Australians can access sotrovimab, an existing anti-viral intervention.

Whilst the general public may be provided the latter treatment in hospital, changing department recommendations have seen aged care residents largely restricted to on-site care as they battle the virus.

“It is important for residents and families to understand that transfer to hospital for residents with COVID-19 is generally no longer possible unless they are exhibiting severe symptoms, given the number of people being hospitalised with COVID-19 with severe illness,” the report says.

It also slams the Federal Government’s $800 offering to aged care staff, which the AACC notes is both inadequate to address the chronic workforce crisis, as well as exclusionary of various workers within the care network.

“Staff working in the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) will miss out altogether, as will Home Care and Residential Aged Care workers in maintenance, reception and lifestyle program roles.

“This makes it all the more difficult because in Home Care and Residential Care some staff will receive the payment while their colleagues will not – despite them all facing similar risks and work challenges.”

The federal health department is yet to formally respond to the report.

Aged Care News has contacted the department for comment.

About the Australian Aged Care Collaboration

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) is a group of six aged care peak bodies: Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and UnitingCare Australia.

Together, the AACC represents more than 1000 organisations, which deliver 70 per cent of aged care services to 1.3 million Australians, either in their own homes or in communal residential settings.

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