Union survey says aged care workers and residents are suffering in COVID-19 surge – but Morrison Govt again shows it doesn’t care while 58% are working double shifts

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The United Workers Union has released a survey of workers detailing missed care, lack of PPE and Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), and staff stress and exhaustion during the Omicron wave.

The survey of 949 workers – mainly in Queensland and South Australia – released on Monday indicated over 80% of staff are working in facilities with Omicron outbreaks.

Among the statistics being reported:

  • Over half (56%) said they were not being tested for COVID-19 due to a lack of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs)
  • Over one-third of respondents said they didn’t have access to PPE or its use was limited
  • 78% of workers said staff were stressed, exhausted and confused
  • 58% said they were being asked frequently to work double shifts
  • 10% said they were being asked to work while sick

But there was little sympathy from Stuart Robert, the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business and the Acting Minister for Education and Youth, when he was quizzed about the survey on The Today Show the same day.

Minister Robert pointed to the Government’s $17.7 billion investment in the aged care sector following the Royal Commission and the 89 million RAT tests ordered for workers.

“As a workforce minister, Karl, we’re super keen to get more and more Australians into this vital area. That’s why there’s 37,000 free training places through JobTrainer. And I’d really encourage Australians who’ve got a passion for loving our senior Australians, get involved in that training. There are great career options there.”

“Why on earth would you go and work in an aged care facility when you’re getting 22 bucks an hour?” responded host Karl Stefanovic.

“Again, the wages and conditions are set by the Fair Work Commission, Karl. That’s how it’s done, that’s how our system operates. That’s the laws that have been in place since the previous Government, and that’s how it operates,” said the Minister.

“So, you don’t think any of that story is true, the going without water and without food in some circumstances, and without, more importantly, medication?” questioned Karl.

“There are so many incredibly decent aged care workers in facilities right across the country. The idea that so many Australians would be denied basic food and water, and that the lovely staff in aged care centres would be doing that, I think defies belief. There’s a lot of work going into our aged care sector to ensure it continues to be world class.”

Unsurprisingly, the hosts agreed that the response was “not good enough”.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, meanwhile, failed to mention aged care in his speech at the Press Club on Tuesday, instead focusing on the need to make schools COVID safe with $440 million in funding.

Speaking in Canberra, the Opposition Leader also stressed the need for a “strong, properly funded public health system”, investing in TAFE and the training sector, manufacturing locally and affordable childcare.

As we reported last week, you have to ask the question: do our politicians care about aged care?

Minister Robert’s comments make it clear that he does not.

Aged care does not appear to factor into Labor’s vision for the future.

Yet a well-funded, quality aged care system is in the interests of all Australians – young and old.

Otherwise, older Australians will continue to be at risk of missing out on care – while the younger generation will be expected to pick up the bill.

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