Aged care providers have presented a COVID-19 rescue package to the federal government including a proposal for $250 million in support for home care.
The package also includes $500 million for IT across the board, $546 million for residential care, and an unspecified pandemic workforce fund.
The package has been backed by the major representative aged care organisations including ACSA, LASA, the Aged Care Guild, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health and Uniting Care Australia.
The groups say many providers were already at risk of collapse prior to COVID-19 and the crisis is pushing them closer to breaking point.
“These are unprecedented times and aged care providers are at the front line of protecting the safety of their residents, clients, visitors and staff,” the group says.
Impact on home care
UnitingCare Australia says it is already seeing new patterns in home care provision.
“It’s early days and there have been concerns about care workers entering the home,” National director Claerwen Little told Community Care Review.
“Providers have also had to cease group social activities so they are working on diverting this capacity to providing individual supports and are keeping in touch with people who’ve cancelled services.”
However she says access to PPE has improved and it is safe to receive services.
“We are encouraging people to use services that they need and can revise plans if necessary,” she said.
The home care funding is estimated on the basis of providing $10 a day per client to meet increased direct care costs.
“We’ve asked for $10 a day per client knowing that there are a lot of calls on the government for additional support and there is much uncertainty about how COVID-19 will impact on home care users,” Ms Little says.
She says the funds will help cover staff and service readiness including additional protection measures, ‘back of house’ costs of rescheduling and redesigning of programs and additional staffing required to maintain services as workers need to self isolate or take sick leave.
Ms Little also says the ICT funding will help reduce isolation and loneliness.
Technology can make up for cancellation of centre based activities like group fitness and social and cultural groups, she says.
“We can help to connect older people – whether in the community or in residential care – with their grandchildren and other family members who have to keep away. It can also help people to go ‘virtually’ to places that are important to them, whether these are places of worship, nature or the arts.”
Avoiding tragic consequences
Catholic Health Australia CEO Pat Garcia said striking a balance between protecting the elderly and ensuring they are still connected is a fine one that demands extra resources.
“There is the extra cost of additional cleaning and sanitisation, personal protection equipment for workers and backfilling staff who have to socially isolate,” he told CCR.
“We have all seen the tragic consequences overseas when there is inadequate protection of the elderly in homes: that cannot be allowed to happen in Australia.
“Ultimately government has to ask itself the question – what price are they are prepared to pay for the safety of our most vulnerable during this time?”
It come after the federal government last month unveiled new measures against COVID-19 for the aged care sector including an additional $92.2 million for home care and CHSP and a $235 million staff retention bonus for residential and home care providers.
LASA CEO Sean Rooney says the government’s recent coronavirus funding for aged care is welcome but doesn’t go far enough.
“More is needed and the aged care peak bodies are working together with the government to ensure we do everything possible to adequately protect older Australians in our aged care system so they get the care and support they need right now,” he said.