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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Three months on, aged care workers feel let down by token COVID payments

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The Morrison Government’s ‘sugar hit’ bonus payment scheme, dismissed as “laughable” by many aged care workers, has been further derided by the nurse’s union as a number of their workers have been left high and dry.  

As Aged Care News reported on May 1, only 39 per cent of the whole aged care workforce received a payment. 

Health department data recently acquired by Aged Care News shows that the scheme saw greater coverage in its second round, with 215,000 workers (81 per cent of those eligible) having benefitted overall by at least one payment by the scheme’s conclusion.

Results of a national poll of 838 nurses conducted by the ANMF, which captured 1.5 per cent of the country’s aged care nurse cohort, found that 71 per cent of members surveyed were left empty-handed.

Amongst this group was Christine, an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) of six years from Queensland, who feels betrayed and short-changed by the system after only receiving one of the two promised payments.   

She says that a small splash of cash does little to remedy the ongoing workforce crisis.

“Every day I question myself – am I doing enough to keep the residents happy?

“I want to spend time with them, but I can only spend 8-20 minutes per resident a day.

“That is not enough … I come home sometimes and I cry to myself because I don’t think I’ve done enough for them.

“I’ve worked in aged care for almost six years, and I don’t think I can do it anymore.

“I want change, I want more staffing and to increase the quality of aged care. Government needs to step up and do something.”

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler says that this insufficient policy is yet another hit to workers, who are calling for comprehensive reforms over quick fixes.

“When the Morrison Government first announced this bonus payment, meant to recognise the extraordinary efforts of aged care nurses and workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our members were not impressed.

“Aged care unions and providers called for much more for overwhelmed aged care workers — genuine measures to fix the crisis in aged care.

“But the Government failed to take action: it did not address the staffing crisis and it refused to participate in the Fair Work Commission’s process to increases wages for aged care workers, opting instead for two pro-rata payments of up to $400 aimed at preventing an exodus of staff from the frontline.

“Now we discover that not only has the Morrison Government failed to take real action to fix the crisis in aged care, it hasn’t even delivered on its promised bonus payment for [a number of our] workers.

“Our members have had enough of this complete lack of regard from the Government.

Carolyn Smith, aged care spokesperson for the United Workers Union, seconded Butler’s frustration.

“Not only has the Morrison Government failed to take real action to fix the crisis in aged care, it hasn’t even delivered on its promised bonus payment for workers.”

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