The United Workers Union (UWU) has today joined aged care providers and other aged care unions in calling for urgent Federal Government intervention in the aged care sector.
In a joint statement today, aged care providers and unions are calling on the Morrison Government to:
- Deploy the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to provide support.
- Institute a COVID support payment directly to all workers.
The calls add to recent calls by United Workers Union for improved access to N95 masks suitable for use with omicron and better access to rapid antigen testing.
UWU aged care director Carolyn Smith said workers were distressed as they faced PPE shortages, RAT tests were unavailable, shifts were going unfilled and quality care was unable to be given to aged care residents.
Almost two years into the pandemic, aged care COVID-19 cases are soaring – with latest estimates of COVID-19 in more than 1000 aged care facilities – and workers are at breaking point. COVID-19 related absences are putting further stress on a sector that was already failing to deliver quality care.
“Aged care workers want to just do the job to the best of their ability and make sure our older Australians are treated with the care and the dignity they deserve, but as Omicron takes hold, they are unable to properly do this,” Ms Smith said.
“The emotional toll, back-to-back shifts, long hours, cancelled holidays and the low pay has meant workers are leaving the industry and I am afraid this gap will have disastrous consequences unless some drastic measures are taken.”
UWU, which represents aged care workers in Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, is warning that things will only get worse if the Government does not act now.
“It is really distressing that it has come to having to call for the army to help protect our vulnerable older people but this is the level the crisis has reached after years of Government neglect in the sector.
“Putting private health sector staff into the public sector hospital and aged care system looks good on paper, but aged care workers have seen the low priority placed on aged care and seriously doubt they will benefit from this move.
“It’s time for Scott Morrison to do his job, take responsibility for this mess and listen to the workers and providers before things get even worse.”
UWU rang the alarm last week about the lack of access to vital personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks and Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) which is contributing to the spread of the Omicron variant across Australian aged care homes.
Residential aged care providers can request PPE and Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) from the National Medical Stockpile via an online form, however the union has been told that this is only for sites with active cases and that delivery can take more than five days because of supply chain issues.