> Australia Defence Force COVID help in aged care needed beyond September, sector says

Australia Defence Force COVID help in aged care needed beyond September, sector says

Australia’s peak body for aged care providers has flagged the sector will need help from defence personnel beyond its September extension date.

Defence Minister Richard Marles and Aged Care Minister Anika Wells issued a joint statement on Sunday announcing the federal government would extend and expand its Australian Defence Force support for residential aged care from August 12 to September 30.

Up to 250 general duties personnel will be able to be deployed to facilities across the country, a significant increase from the estimated 25 personnel currently assisting.

Aged and Community Care Providers Association chief executive Paul Sadler said the measure was “really welcomed” by the sector, but would do little to ease the enormous workforce shortage.

man in suit with silver tie and pink shirt smiles at the camera
Paul Sadler has welcomed the support but says more will be needed.(Supplied: Paul Sadler)

“We are short, in just residential care alone, 27,000 workers at the moment,” Mr Sadler said.

He said about about 10 per cent of staff were off work with COVID, the flu or isolating.

“That’s always our weakest point when it comes to the pandemic.”

There were more than 1,000 active outbreaks affecting aged care homes across Australia as of July 22.

Mr Sadler said the sector was “clearly be needing help beyond the end of September”.

“But it is probably unreasonable for us to expect the ADF support to be available ongoing,” he said.

“The defence force … is there to defend Australia, it’s not really set up to be a long-term supporter of a rolling set of an emergencies due to something like a global pandemic.”

Residents ‘loved’ visit 

Stawell care provider Eventide Homes farewelled three defence force personnel from Adelaide last Friday who were requested amid the facility’s first outbreak in the pandemic.

It had 58 residents and 16 staff infected at the height of the outbreak.

Chief executive Gary Simpson said amount of active cases among residents had dropped from 17 at the weekend to four on Monday.

Mr Simpson said the personnel — two registered nurses and one enrolled nurse — were a “wonderful help” during what had been a “tough few weeks”.

exterior of aged care facility in regional Victoria
Eventide Homes in Stawell recently received help from three defence force personnel. (Supplied: Eventide Homes)

“Their demeanour with the residents was wonderful,” Mr Simpson said.

“The residents loved them.”

He said he too believed the end-date for the support measure would need to be revised.

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