Australian aged care facilities are experiencing an unprecedented crisis, with chronic understaffing, excessive workloads and extended shifts, according to a survey of Health Services Union members. The survey also revealed that there are serious shortages of boosters, tests and PPE.
The survey of more than 1,000 HSU workers found:
- 82 per cent believe their facility was unprepared for the current Omicron ‘let it rip’ approach.
- 90 per cent are experiencing understaffing.
- 84 per cent are experiencing excessive workloads.
- 36 per cent are working in facilities that have implemented 12 hour shifts.
Staff have also reported working 16 hour shifts, and having to work seven days consecutively.
Stories have emerged of care staff without food safety qualifications working in kitchens, a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for workers and a shortage of rapid antigen tests (RATs). In addition, 39 per cent of members have had to isolate due to exposure, and only 16 per cent of those had access to paid isolation leave.
HSU National President Gerard Hayes said these issues could have been avoided if the federal government had prepared the sector for the current COVID outbreak.
‘The Morrison Government comprehensively failed to plan before allowing Omicron to rip through the community. Now modestly paid workers, and residents in aged care facilities who built this country, are paying the price,’ he said.
‘Only just over a third of members surveyed have received their booster shot, despite working overtime in high risk settings.
‘There are active outbreaks in almost 500 aged care facilities across the country. Yet workers can’t access RATs, they can’t access PPE. They are on the front line with very little protection.
‘Not only are staff at risk but vulnerable residents are at a heightened risk of severe disease or death,’ said Mr Hayes.
‘The Morrison Government has effectively abandoned the sector under the premise of living with the virus. Aged care workers are exhausted and frustrated and residents are terrified.
‘The federal government needs to take action today,’ he said.