Government kicks in another $445 million for aged care providers to fight coronavirus – aged care workers to be prioritised for testing

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured above right) has announced another $444.6 million of extra funding for aged care facilities to tackle the spread of the virus on top of the $100 million last week to support workforce initiatives last week.

The new funding includes:

  • $234.9 million for a COVID-19 ‘retention bonus’ to ensure the continuity of the workforce for staff in both residential and home care.
  • $78.3 million in additional funding for residential care to support continuity of workforce supply.
  • $26.9 million to supplement the viability of residential aged care facilities (including National Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Program and Multi-Purpose Services and homeless providers).
  • $92.2 million in additional support to home care providers and organisations which deliver the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), including for services such as Meals on Wheels.
  • $12.3 million to support myagedcare to respond to the needs of older Australians.

The PM says the extra funding recognises the staffing challenges that aged care will face if existing staff are subject to self-isolation due to the virus or are unable to attend work – an issue that has already hit providers overseas.

The Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy also had another bonus for providers – the Government is relaxing the criteria for COVID-19 testing with aged care workers to be made a priority.

Given the lack of testing of workers in other countries has reportedly contributed to outbreaks in aged care homes – see yesterday’s issue for details – this is another positive step forward.

Healthcare workers with influenza-like illnesses and all people presenting to hospital with pneumonia will also be prioritised along with returned travelers.

However, there was some less welcome news.

The same announcement revealed the Federal Budget – set to be handed down on 12 May – will be delayed until 6 October – over six months away.

“Putting budgets together at this time, with the great uncertainty that exists, is not something that any Commonwealth or state government should be doing,” Mr Morrison said.

The May Budget had been expected to include at least some funding for additional Home Care Packages (HCPs) with the waiting list still sitting at over 110,000.

Given the current situation, that would seem to be off the cards.

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