Aged Care Homes Plagued By Covid, Staff Shortages & Loneliness

Infections exploding across sector

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Covid outbreaks across Australia's aged care facilities continues to grow, as the number of infections escalate. 

Federal health department data released late on Friday highlights cases have doubled in a week, with more than 7000 active cases across about 1100 facilities.

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It comes as Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO Paul Sadler confirmed the numbers are only rising across the 2700 federally funded aged care facilities.

"I believe there is now a risk we will have over half of all the aged care homes in Australia with outbreaks. That number is likely to continue to increase," he warned the ABC. 

“ACSA is disappointed but not surprised to see that over 1100 aged care homes now have outbreaks. It is essential we fix the supply chain problems that are preventing rapid tests and personal protective equipment from getting to aged care homes.”

“We must do all that we can to provide an immediate boost to staffing levels in affected homes, especially as cases are likely to keep rising,” Mr Sadler said. 

Not isolated to any one state or territory, Australian Health Services Research Institute’s Professor Kathy Eagar said the federal government’s planning from the get-go has been “completely incompetent”.

"I think every family should be really concerned about what’s happening in aged care," she said.

Warning that a mental health crisis lies hidden behind closed doors with residents confined to their rooms, Eagar said all residents should have received booster shots before Christmas.

Meantime, Queensland health minister Yevette D’Ath on Monday slammed the federal government’s failure to ensure all aged care residents have a third dose of a Covid vaccine.

"I am concerned that not all aged care facilities have their boosters yet. And I am concerned that people in the disability sector as well [do not have boosters]."

"Omicron finds the elderly who haven't had a booster and we need to get them boosted," she urged.

But unfortunately, the damage done goes far beyond staff shortages and lockdowns, as the emotional impact among aged care residents, isolated from family and friends hits an all time high.

Older Persons Advocacy Network spokesperson Maria Berry is troubled by the treatment older people have faced throughout the pandemic. 

"I think Covid's become a bit of a cover to some of the issues behind those doors," she said.

Ms Berry says that although restrictions are necessary to protect the elderly from Covid, a more compassionate approach is long overdue.

"Covid's certainly here, don't get me wrong. But this has been coming for years. You know, staffing issues and terrible pay and terrible training and terrible support.".

- Ms Berry

It follows the federal government announcing last week that following a National Cabinet meeting aged care workers will be exempt from close contact rules.


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Hit News Team

18 January 2022

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