Students and overseas workers could help aged care sector deal with coronavirus


Visa holders and students could be used to help boost Australia’s aged care workforce under a proposal to help the sector deal with coronavirus.

Key points:

  • The aged care sector is concerned about a possible shortage of workers as
  • Suggestions include extending the amount of hours of work overseas workers can work in the sector
  • An elderly woman died during an outbreak at a Sydney nursing home

An outbreak of the illness at a Sydney nursing home where one woman died has raised questions about whether providers have enough workers to care for elderly residents, who are especially vulnerable to the disease.

Several staff members at the facility have tested positive themselves while a number of others did not return to work.

Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said the sector put several new options to the Federal Government during a meeting in Canberra on Friday.

“Currently, we have overseas worker visas that allow people to work up to 20 hours a week in residential aged care, we could extend the hours of work available for those people,” he said.

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“[Also] looking at the regulatory arrangements around general practice and the use of graduates and students in circumstances where additional capacity is required.

“If we have people that are currently being trained in the sector but are not fully qualified, they may be useful to be able to do particular tasks in either the acute sector or the aged care sector or indeed in primary care.”

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Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said a number of “novel” ideas would be considered by the Government.

“There have been a range of suggestions that have been pulled together … whether [staff] come in from some outside providers, whether it’s the way we manage the existing workforce,” he said.

“So there’s a range of things that we can work on.”

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The meeting received a briefing from the operators of the Sydney nursing home, BaptistCare, about what it had learned from the outbreak so far.

Mr Rooney said all aged care operators were being urged to take extra steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re seeing training being conducted, refresher training conducted across residential care facilities with their staff in regards to infection control, systems and protocols,” he said.

“We’re seeing screening being conducted in facilities, screening of visitors to ensure that all visitors are aware of what the risk factors are and if they believe they have any of those risks that they would not enter the facility.

“And then significant planning with regards to ensuring there’s adequate supplies of masks and gloves and handwash.”

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