Catholic Health Australia is warning dozens of aged care homes around Australia are on the verge of collapse due to the heavy drain on their already-strained finances created by the resurgence of COVID-19.
The number of homes affected by an outbreak has exploded from 210 at the beginning of March to 846 in the latest recorded period.
Resident cases have similarly risen from 1618 to 6361 over the same period, while staff cases have risen from 1297 to 5243.
CHA, which represents the largest grouping of aged care homes in Australia, is getting reports from its members that the current situation is unsustainable financially.
CHA strategy and mission director Brigid Meney is warning that although the Commonwealth reimburses costs when there is an outbreak, the extra costs of infection prevention are not covered.
“Around half the aged care homes in Australia are only barely able to make ends meet and now the extra costs associated with this new wave of COVID are going to push them over the edge,” Meney said.
“Buying and managing PPE inventories and disposal, extra measures for ensuring safer visitations, additional costs associated with disruptions to rosters due to staff infections, co-ordination of up-to-date vaccinations – all of this costs money that’s just not available readily within the budgets of most homes.
“Homes in regional areas are particularly vulnerable given how precarious most were pre-pandemic.
“Sixty per cent of regional are currently running at a loss, which you obviously just can’t sustain for long.
Meney said the sector desperately needs the Commonwealth to create extra funding streams for homes to manage this and future waves of COVID-19.
“We know from bitter experience that more deaths follow hard on the heels of rising case numbers.
“There have already been 1107 reported COVID-related deaths in aged care homes in 2022, compared with 686 and 231 in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
“If we don’t see a special stream of funding opened up urgently we will see deaths rising and homes shutting their doors.
“The situation is now sadly that stark and that simple.”