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Staff shortages in elderly care double in nine months

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

A new report warns that Australia’s aged care sector is heading for a ‘worst case scenario’ as a growing staff shortage threatens to derail efforts to drastically improve care standards.

The Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) estimated Tuesday that the critical shortage of aged care workers has more than doubled in the past nine months, from 17,000 workers in August to an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 in 2022.

An astonishing 65,000 carers will leave the sector alone this year, CEDA predicts, as poor working conditions and lower migration levels bite the workforce and threaten already poor standards of care.

Staff shortages in elderly care double in nine months

Ceda senior economist Cassandra Winzar warned efforts to overhaul the industry, with the shocking findings of the royal commission on aged care, are at risk unless more is done to solve the serious shortage of carers.

She said that this includes Labor’s election pledge to fund 24/7 nurses in every aged care facility.

“The promise and desire for better quality care are fantastic,” Ms. Winzar told new idea.

“But with the workforce, as it is today and the working conditions as they are now, they are… [Labor] cannot keep those promises.”

CEDA has called on the Albanian government to encourage more foreign workers to migrate to Australia to solve the short-term staffing crisis and is proposing a new visa targeting personal carers.

But Ms. Winzar said low wages and difficult conditions for aged care workers must also be improved. Otherwise, Australia would have too few workers to care for its rapidly aging population.

Elderly care faces ‘worst-case scenario.’

CEDA’s latest report on Australia’s aged care workforce warns that the country is heading for a “worst-case scenario” in which too few workers enter the sector through migration and too many local workers leave due to difficult conditions and low wages during the recession. Pandemic.

Ms. Winzar warns that Australia faces a yearly shortage of up to 35,000 carers if this continues.

“With more workers leaving the industry and fewer coming in through migration, the gap between where we need to be to meet demand and where we are today has essentially doubled,” she wrote.

“Without substantial workforce growth, not only will we not meet the drive for improved care (as requested in the royal commission), but our levels of care are likely to deteriorate.”

As things stand, CEDA estimates that the industry needs an additional 8,000 employees annually to at least meet international best-practice standards.

The Royal Commission on Elderly Care found in 2020 that understaffing was a leading cause of horror stories across the industry, including malnutrition and maggots in residents’ wounds.

The Albanian government pledged to address these poor standards during the federal election campaign and to increase annual industry funding by $2.5 billion.

Its obligations include increasing staff individual care time and ensuring that a nurse is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at every aged care facility in the country.

Labor also pledged to back a union bid to secure a 25 percent pay increase for aged care workers through the independent industry arbitrator, which Ms. Winzar said would be necessary to prevent workers from leaving the sector.

Migrant influx needed

However, CEDA warns that a much-needed pay rise for aged care workers will not be enough to address the sector’s immediate crises.

This is partly because there are not enough available workers to fill the vacant positions.

Ms. Winzar said boosting migration is key to ensuring the sector has enough staff to maintain and ultimately improve poor standards of care.

“Healthcare workers, the majority of industry staff, and people who provide day-to-day care are not on a skilled migration list,” she said.

“They are not considered qualified enough for that.”

CEDA recommended that the Albanian government add personal carers to the skilled migration priority list to make it easier for foreign workers to obtain work visas.

Alternatively, the government could create a new visa category targeting elderly care workers, it said.

“We are calling for some sort of direct… [visa] trajectory for personal carers”, explains Ms. Winzar.

†[We need] people who are qualified and want to work in the sector – educated and interested.”

National President of the Health Services Union, Gerard Hayes, said plans to expand the migrant worker base must be accompanied by measures to protect existing workers from undermining and new workers from exploitation.

“We need to ensure that workers are not exploited, and that means looking for wages that align with the union’s expectations and the royal commission’s recommendations,” he said.

“We need to get the fundamentals right, and then withdrawal and attention will be a key point.”

New Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said in early June that she would work with Immigration Secretary Andrew Giles to develop new policies to recruit carers from abroad.

But the new government has yet to outline concrete plans ahead of the October budget.

Secretary Wells’s office failed to respond to a request for comment before Monday’s deadline.

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