Up to 80% of nursing staff working in aged care have reported no increases in care staff at their facility to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak, according to a survey conducted by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
Additionally, the Aged Care COVID-19 Survey showed staff cuts since the beginning of March (19% working in for-profit, 17% in not-for-profit and 13% in government-run aged care facilities).
Yet 53% of respondents said they were willing to work more shifts at their aged care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around 40% respondents said their aged care facility was prepared for a COVID-19 outbreak, and less than 30% said their aged care facility had enough supplies of PPE.
The results also revealed that 77% of respondents’ employers had recently updated or implemented infection control procedures for staff.
“A concerning element of these results is the reports that staffing has not been increased and, in some cases, has actually been reduced since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia, across the aged care sector, despite a majority of workers reporting that they would be willing to work additional hours to help out during the pandemic,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.
“Perhaps even more concerning is that once again, aged care workers are reporting significant levels of stress, pressure and a lack of support as the sector grapples to combat COVID-19. This is while they continue to be the ‘glue’ that is holding the system together. A fact that has been unacknowledged by the government and the sector since the pandemic began.”
The survey, conducted from 15 April to 6 May, aimed to assess aged care workers’ sense of their employer’s preparedness to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the strategies that had been put in place as well as identify the key challenges and major gaps in the aged care sector’s response to COVID-19 from the perspective of those providing direct care to older Australians.
A total of 1,980 registered and enrolled nurses, personal care workers and ancillary staff, from a range of employment areas, including for-profit, not-for-profit and government aged care providers, participated in the national survey, with the highest participation rate coming from the not-for-profit sector (44%).
The ANMF acknowledged the inspiring efforts of aged care workers across the country to keep older Australians, especially those living in nursing homes, safe, despite experiencing significant challenges presented by the COVID-19outbreak in Australia.
Ms Butler said Australia had done an excellent job to date in containing the COVID-19 pandemic across states and territories, but said the ANMF continuesd to have concerns about the preparedness of the aged care sector to deal with outbreaks of the disease.
“Our concern is due both to the chronic understaffing and widespread lack of skills in the sector, so clearly identified by the Aged Care Royal Commission and the increasingly well-known risks for older people from COVID-19,” Ms Butler said.
“We recognise the government has provided considerable assistance to the sector since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia but we have been unsure as to whether this assistance has converted to the additional staff, skills and resources required to prepare for, and deal with, an outbreak of COVID-19. So, we conducted this survey to find out what’s happening on the ground.”