Defence force support in aged care extended amid rising COVID-19 outbreaks

The federal government is extending and expanding Australian Defence Force (ADF) support for aged care homes battling COVID-19 outbreaks until the end of September.

Defence force personnel have provided clinical and non-clinical support to aged care homes experiencing COVID-19 related staff shortages since February.

In response to the latest surge, which shows more than a thousand aged care homes across the country are experiencing outbreaks, assistance will continue for another two months. An extra 250 defence personnel, in addition to clinician-led teams, will also be deployed, if needed.

According to the government, the decision reflects the growing challenges faced by aged care homes amid the Omicron COVID-19 variant, including staff grappling with high workloads, stress, fatigue, and absence due to contracting the virus.

Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the ADF had provided vital relief to numerous aged care homes impacted by serious COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Given the number of outbreaks that we’ve got right now, this is the right thing to do, and I’ve got no doubt that those personnel will equip themselves professionally and fantastically in the way they do their work,” he said in a TV interview on ABC News Breakfast.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said aged care providers and individual homes had a responsibility to manage staff, including surge workforce arrangements.

“When sufficient staff can’t be found during an outbreak, they will be able to ask the Department of Health and Aged Care to deploy a surge workforce, or ADF team, to support them through their immediate crisis. This is expected to be for short periods to allow more homes to be supported during outbreaks,” she said.

“We need to protect our most vulnerable during this winter wave, and support from the ADF until September 30 will help address the workforce crisis we have seen in the past.”

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