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Hasty moves to stop aged care workers from working in multiple aged care facilities in Queensland threaten to hinder efforts to combat the pandemic, United Workers Union Aged Care Director Carolyn Smith said today.

“Like most Australians, we express the gravest concerns and sympathies about the outbreak in aged care facilities in Victoria and support the need for the highest vigilance in protecting Australia’s most vulnerable,” Ms Smith said.

“We also understand the imperative to have workers based in one centre only.

“However the recent history of St Basil’s in Victoria shows that you are taking a risk when you attempt to overhaul existing staffing numbers and structures without thinking through the consequences.

“The aged care system was already in crisis due to staff shortages before the pandemic hit. Now it’s extremely vulnerable to even the slightest cutbacks in staff.

“You must have a back-up plan if you are forcing staff to stop working two jobs.

“Ad hoc measures to stop workers moving between aged care facilities threatens the level of care and safety available to residents if staff are being removed from the floor – including the ability of staff to effectively enforce infection control measures.

“We are calling on the Queensland Government to immediately announce extra staffing to make up staff shortfalls, and compensation for workers who are forced to give up shifts at a secondary provider.

“Longer term, we encourage the Queensland Government and the Federal Government to adopt a national system for workers who have two jobs that protects residents and workers.

“The problems currently confronting aged care were entirely foreseeable because of its well documented failures.

“We require a national plan to ensure the pressures of the pandemic do not totally derail the aged care system.”

The system adopted in Victoria includes:
– $1500 worker compensation packages.
– Aged care workers who work two jobs have been able to choose their primary provider and have that primary provider make up their lost shifts.
– The secondary provider has been required to keep the shifts open for the worker after the crisis.

“In a United Workers Union survey released this week, 90 per cent of workers said they were unable to complete their tasks in the available time,” Ms Smith said.

“These figures point to a broken system that requires a massive overhaul. And it’s the industry’s reliance on a part-time and casual workforce that forces workers to take jobs across multiple facilities.”