Aged care homes are still battling COVID-19 as the Omicron wave continues, with facilities of operators such as Shepparton Villages still enduring outbreaks and lockdowns this month.
Veronica Jamison, CEO of Shepparton Villages, told The Weekly SOURCE that as of last week, all its homes were either declared outbreak sites or in lockdown, with short-handed staff working hard to ensure that the facilities keep running.
“Clearly the unfolding situation has had a significant impact on the availability of staff at Shepparton Villages, and we’ve had to put a lot of effort into ensuring our homes continue to operate safely during this time.
“We’ve had to recall people back from leave early, we’ve had to cancel people’s leave, people who were on leave have come and returned from leave or are working on leave.
“The commitment and continued efforts of all those staff, and indeed our board members and our community, have been just amazing,” she said.
Residents have been frustrated with lockdowns, says Ms Jamison, though the situation has improved since the public health unit allowed residents to go for walks outside their rooms as long as they wear PPE and practice physical distancing.
“We’re looking at a group of people at this time of life who should be enjoying themselves, having a great time in aged care.
“After all, we’re running an aged care home, we’re not running a prison,” she said.
Ms Jamison has called for more resources to help the sector, including free rapid antigen tests for all Australians, reopening immigration, and making it easier for community volunteers to come in.
“We need people who know the residents. Families know the residents very, very well. Volunteers who have previously worked in our homes know the residents well.
“Our public health unit has allowed us to let a number of volunteers in, and they’ve also recently allowed us to let families come in and help,” she said.
Shepparton Villages last year warned of a rocky future for aged care in its annual report.