Defence Force support in aged care extended until end of September

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Australian Defence Force (ADF) support has officially been extended in residential aged care homes until 30 September, to assist with care during the current COVID-19 wave.

Defence Minister Richard Marles and Aged Care Minister Anika Wells announced the extension following calls from the sector to maintain the program past its previous scheduled end date on 12 August; additionally, support teams are being restructured and more personnel made available, with up to 250 ADF general duties personnel able to be called upon in addition to clinician-led teams.

Ms Wells stressed that it is the responsibility of individual homes and providers to manage their staff, including surge workers.

“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.

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

“The defence force into aged care is an extreme measure and, while it’s great news that ADF personnel will be available to residential facilities until the end of September, my priority is making sure aged care facilities have ongoing capacity to meet workforce shortages,” she said.

Gary Simpson (pictured), CEO of Eventide Homes in Stawell, Victoria, said the three ADF personnel who assisted as registered and enrolled nurses during a recent outbreak had been loved by residents. He welcomed the announcement of the extension, saying he would call upon the ADF again if needed.

“Nationally, we know that there are over 1,000 residential aged care facilities suffering from the current strain of COVID-19 that’s going through the community.

“My advice to anybody that’s in a position to consider or accept assistance from the Australian Defence Force to go ahead with it – we should never knock back an opportunity of an offer of support,” he said.

As of last Friday 22 July, only 24 ADF personnel were deployed in residential aged care homes around Australia.

Will this announcement see numbers pick up?