Pandemic fight needs more staff
The Aged Care Royal Commission criticised the federal government’s lack of planning and leadership over COVID-19.
The aged care royal commission has called on the federal government to immediately fund additional staff in nursing homes to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission criticised the government’s lack of a dedicated plan or clear leadership in the aged care sector’s handling of the emergency.
The commission delivered its special report on COVID-19 and aged care to the government in October.
The report called for more funding for staff so families could visit loved ones in care, and measures to provide allied and mental health services to residents.
The Morrison government said it accepted the recommendations and announced an initial $40.6 million in extra funding.
It also announced an additional $10.8 million “to enhance skills and leadership of aged care nurses” by expanding the Australian College of Nursing scholarship program, establishing an aged care practice program and creating “skills development programs for nurses and personal care workers in aged care”.
The government said it would further respond to the special report by 1 December.
Royal Commissioners, Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs, said they had decided to produce a brief report on COVID-19 in advance of their final report to be delivered in February 2021.
They called the pandemic “the greatest challenge Australia’s aged care sector has faced. Those who have suffered the most have been the residents, their families and aged care staff”.
“It is clear to us that people receiving aged care services, their loved ones, those providing care and the aged care sector itself need immediate support and action,” they said.
They recommended the government require providers to appoint “infection control officers” and said the government should arrange to put “accredited infection prevention and control experts” into nursing homes.
They said the government’s actions were “insufficient” to ensure the aged care sector was fully prepared for the pandemic.
They concluded: “There was not a COVID-19 plan devoted solely to aged care. But there was a national COVID-19 plan that the Australian Government sought to adapt and apply to the aged care sector.”
All too often, the commissioners said, families, providers and health care workers “did not have an answer to the critical question: Who is in charge?”
The special report makes it clear that the government’s response to the pandemic in nursing homes was made largely without input from aged care experts.
For example, there was not a single aged care specialist among the 24 members of Communicable Diseases Network Australia, which is supposed to coordinate, lead and support best practice in the prevention and control of communicable diseases.
The special report makes it clear that authorities were too slow to recommend or mandate the use of face masks in aged care facilities.