Aged care workers to carry the burden of aged care restrictions

18 August 2020

The ANMF (SA Branch) is calling on the Marshall and Morrison Governments to stop the buck passing and identify solutions to ensure facilities are safely staffed and to prevent personal care workers from being financially compromised when new aged care restrictions come into effect next week.

Premier Steven Marshall’s announcement last week prohibiting personal care workers from working at multiple aged care sites has created unnecessary anguish and uncertainty for staff.

From August 27, personal care workers will not be able to work at more than one residential aged care facility. And all doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and personal care workers will be required to wear PPE including face masks when they come within 1.5m of a resident.

“Whilst supporting measures to keep residents and staff safe from COVID-19, we struggle to see why restrictions on multiple employers are being applied to personal care workers but not applied to other groups of staff,” said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

“There is no obvious reason for this group of aged care workers to be singled out for restrictions.’’

In addition, to date the Marshall Government has not been able to provide guidance on how they will mitigate the potential shortage of staff resulting from this decision.

“We would have hoped the SA Government would have learnt from the chaotic introduction of similar restrictions in Melbourne and consulted with unions about the rules to be put into place and the measures to protect workers faced with cuts in hours and their incomes,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“As personal care workers continue to work in extremely challenging circumstances to provide care for frail and vulnerable Australians they just keep getting kicked while they are down. This is a group of workers that deserve support, not to be punished because well-paid bureaucrats and politicians haven’t thought through a new policy.”

However, the changes have been imposed by the State Government without discussion or consultation with unions representing staff in the aged care sector, creating a great deal of anxiety for personal care workers.
“The ANMF (SA Branch) are concerned the new restrictions are likely to negatively impact the psychological and financial wellbeing of an already burnt-out workforce and also reduce the quality of care residents will receive,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“We are receiving multiple calls a day from members near tears as they are not sure how they are going to cope with these new restrictions in place.
“These decisions have an impact on people who are already some of the lowest paid workers in the country, which is why many rely on working for multiple employers just to make ends meet. It is unfair and unreasonable to impose this burden on people.”

As for the mandatory wearing of PPE whenever workers come within 1.5 metres of an aged care resident, ANMF (SA Branch) members have been reporting poor supply of appropriate PPE across aged care services.

“Not only is PPE not readily available for use in some aged care sites, but in others the quality is clearly substandard and of little practical use,” Ms Dabars said.

“Once again the rules are being developed in the absence of input from the organisations representing the workforce – the ultimate end users of PPE,’’ she said.

The ANMF (SA Branch) is calling for sensible solutions to these practical issues including state or federal subsidies to be put in place so South Australian personal care workers do not have to wear the financial burden of measures needed to protect vulnerable aged care residents.