Staff shortage emergency requires more than a two-payment bonus
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Australian Aged Care Collaboration, Australian Council of Trade Unions, United Workers Union, Health Services Union and Australian Workers Union have released a joint statement, calling on urgent action in the aged care sector.
We acknowledge the announcement of a retention bonus to be paid to aged care workers in two stages.
However, the announcement still does not address our call last month for additional payments to workers under enormous strain working to protect older vulnerable people during the COVID Omicron surge.
Aged care providers and unions are resolute in their call on the Prime Minister to do more than a two-payment bonus for overwhelmed aged care workers at nursing homes, and those delivering services out in the community right across the country.
The recent announcement of two pro rata payments of up to $400 is grossly inadequate and it remains to be seen how this short-term payment will prevent a feared exodus of staff from the frontline.
The escalating crisis in aged care due to the Omicron surge has left aged care workers experiencing extraordinary levels of worker stress as they do their very best to meet residents’ needs, while being dangerously understaffed, working double shifts and endure long hours in personal protective equipment.
Aged care staff are exhausted and burnt out, with many working for days around the clock. Resignations due to fatigue and feeling undervalued continue to devastate the sector. We need an ongoing Covid-19 payment to be paid on each shift to recognise and incentivise aged care workers.
The Covid pandemic is magnifying the structural deficiencies in the aged care system identified by the Royal Commission. We need action from the federal government to make sure that aged care workers and services are resourced and enabled better care for and protect older Australians. This means having a plan for more staff, with better pay and improved skills and qualifications. Alongside adequate funding for services to maintain infection protection measures to keep people safe.
Aged care staff are working hard to provide care in very challenging circumstances and with limited resources. They are on the frontline of the fight against Covid, caring for the most vulnerable in our society. A largely female dominated workforce, they must be appropriately recognised and supported to win this fight.