Australia's aged care workforce is reaching a crisis point with some aged care homes unable to find adequate numbers of skilled and experienced workers and unable to admit new residents, according to an industry body.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration, which comprises Aged & Community Services Australia, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia and UnitingCare Australia, says the availability of workers is under extreme pressure. Many home care services cannot take on new clients to meet increasing demand and older people are missing out on care as a result of acute workforce shortages.
It says the situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and has called on the Federal Government to take urgent action including supporting aged care providers in relation to increased support worker wages, incentivising nursing students to work in aged care, incentivising prospective care and support workers, implementing a plan for foreign workers to fill vacancies on a short and long-term basis where a local workforce is not available, developing a VET pathway program for secondary school students into aged care with a particular focus on a pathway into home care, offering enrolled nurses subsidies to upskill as registered nurses.
The AACC says the current crisis has been substantially worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with international border closures eliminating a major source of workers in aged care, COVID protection mechanisms like single site operations stretching aged care homes, and competition with the health sector (especially COVID vaccination clinics) reducing access to registered and enrolled nurses.
In mid-2021 the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) Duty of Care: Meeting the Aged Care Workforce Challenge report found "at least 110,000 extra workers are required in the industry over the next decade and the figure could balloon to more than 400,000 workers by 2050". "We need at least 17,000 more aged-care workers each year for the next ten years just to meet basic standards of care," said the report.