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The aged care Omicron crisis has developed into a full-blown aged care workforce crisis, with more than 75 per cent of workers saying they intend to leave the industry within five years in a new survey.

In a United Workers Union snap poll* of more than 1000 aged care workers in South Australia and Queensland, more than two thirds (69 per cent) said the Omicron crisis made them want to leave the aged care sector sooner than they otherwise would have.

When asked directly whether they intended to leave the aged care sector, more than 75 per cent say they intend to leave:

  • 19 per cent say they want to leave as soon as possible.
  • 33 per cent say they want to leave within 12 months.
  • 24 per cent say they want to leave within five years.

The figures mark a huge swing in sentiment by workers about their future in aged care.

In a 2019 survey almost two thirds of aged care workers (63 per cent) answered “yes” or “probably yes” when asked if they would be working in aged care in five years.

“Aged care workers have been forced to bear the brunt of the Omicron crisis with massive understaffing, double and triple shifts, not enough PPE, not enough RATs and a failed booster program,” Carolyn Smith, National Aged Care Director of United Workers Union, said today.

“They rightly feel they have been left unappreciated as they deal with this crisis and deaths that have now occurred in hundreds of facilities.

“In an environment of low pay, a lack of job security and the incredible stresses they have faced, aged care workers are saying they want a better future – and that’s not in aged care.

“This survey underlines what aged care workers have known for a long time: the Federal Government must take responsibility and fix the issues plaguing aged care – low pay, understaffing and a lack of respect and recognition.

“The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about – a workforce crisis leading to a mass exodus that leaves older Australians without the care they need and deserve for years to come.”

In other findings in the snap poll:

  • Only 19 per cent of aged care workers say they have been aware of the much-talked-about “surge workforce” – suggesting the rollout has been patchy and limited.
  • More than 90 per cent of aged care workers say they do not have enough staff for quality care of aged care residents: 54 per cent say they can’t even provide basic care, and 38 per cent say they can only provide basic care.
  • The more than 90 per cent of staff saying they do not have enough staff for quality care of aged care residents is a significant deterioration from a May June survey at the start of the pandemic that found 76 per cent of aged care workers said they do not have enough staff for quality care.
  • One in five aged care workers said they had never been supplied with RAT tests – a further 29 per cent said they “hardly ever” or were “occasionally” provided with RAT tests.

Responses by aged care workers to an open-ended survey question:

“[I’m] feeling ripped off with pitiful pay. My son is on the same pay rate at Hungry Jacks. We need more people and better pay to  retain staff and be appealing to job seekers.” – Aged care worker, South Australia.

“This is my first job in aged care, have been employed here just over 12 months,  since then everything has been going down the hill out of control.  Staff are too worried about losing their jobs when they speak up, so they just leave. The turnover here in the last few months is ridiculous.” – Aged care worker, Queensland

“Care staff being misinformed and treated horribly was bad before Covid, but is especially disappointing and upsetting now when staff are genuinely trying to do the right thing in light of everyone fleeing a sinking ship. Training and planning for an outbreak is totally invisible at a care staff level (if it has been done at all) and RATS and fitted masks were only organised a fortnight AFTER a horribly managed suspected outbreak which turned out to be rhinovirus.” – Aged care worker, South Australia

Omicron continues to rage in aged care facilities

The most recent figures show outbreaks continue in 987 aged care facilities, with 119  deaths attributed to Covid among aged care residents in the most recent week and reported Covid cases in residents in the past week increasing by 1506.**

Aged care deaths from Covid have now been reported in more 190 aged care facilities.


* About the survey: More than 1000 aged care workers responded to a SMS-based survey conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

** About the statistics: Statistics are based on the latest Federal Government statistics and comparisons between February 10 and February 3 daily data reports. An UWU spreadsheet analysing the data is available HERE.


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