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Government unveils new strategy to strengthen aged care workforce

Over the long weekend, the Federal Government initiated a new strategy to strengthen the aged care workforce and ensure that staffing gaps are adequately addressed over the period of the COVID-19 epidemic.

​These new emergency contingency measures will make sure all aged care recipients will continue to receive quality care during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. [Source: Shutterstock]
​These new emergency contingency measures will make sure all aged care recipients will continue to receive quality care during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. [Source: Shutterstock]

The new emergency contingency measures will make sure all aged care recipients will continue to receive quality care during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, the Federal Government announced a partnership with disability and aged care platform, Mable, to expand the aged care workforce through the provider's online platform to respond to a growing demand for staff.

This Government initiative was announced before the peak bodies released their Rescue Package proposal for the Federal Government to consider.

Minister for Aged Care and Older Australians, Richard Colbeck, says that the COVID-19 Age Care Support Program funding will also support aged care providers in hiring additional staff and covering for any workers who need, or are required, to self-isolate.

The new measures for this strategy include:

  • New emergency response teams that are on standby if there is a significant outbreak in a nursing home

  • Remote locums (temporary workers for jobs) to support aged care providers in remote and regional areas of Australia if the providers are unable to find staff

  • Access to a workforce through the online platform Mable to help providers unable to find staff with critical skills due to infection or staff having to self-isolate

Minister Colbeck says, "We are ready to help the aged care sector as we navigate through this difficult time together.

"It’s absolutely critical we continue to have a strong workforce so there are no gaps in care, particularly in regional and remote areas.

"As unlikely as it might be, we have plans in place for worst case scenarios where an outbreak in aged care facilities mean local staff are unable to continue to provide care due to an infection in the service."

The new workforce strategy will be funded through the $101.2 million available for aged care measures, which is part of the Federal Government's $2.4 billion healthcare support package that was announced in early March.

Aspen Medical, a healthcare solutions provider, has been tasked with deploying emergency response teams immediately to aged care facilities if there is a significant outbreak.

Minister Colbeck says, "Nurse first responders are on standby in every State and Territory in the event of an outbreak. Additionally, while it’s unlikely, we need to ensure we’re planning for parts of the workforce being unable to work.

“In an emergency situation, where large parts of the workforce or specific skills can’t be sourced through existing channels, providers can access the Mable workforce platform to recruit workers in nursing, allied health, personal care, domestic assistance and social support service.

“I want to stress these are temporary contingency measures and providers must show they’ve exhausted usual recruitment channels. There’s every chance these extraordinary measures won’t be required in full, but it’s vital we are ready.”

The partnership with Mable will allow Government approved aged care providers to access an expanding workforce and recruit employees in nursing, allied health, personal care, domestic assistance and social support services.

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mable, Peter Scutt, says COVID-19 is challenging all sectors like never before seen, especially older Australians who are vulnerable and in isolation.

Mable has access to Australia's largest online community of independent support workers and connects people requiring care with professionals who are able to provide it. 

"Care and support services for the elderly, who are now isolated at home, remain crucial during these challenging times. Currently, Mable represents an online network of over 8,000 people who are able to provide a range of care and support services to older Australians and people with a disability," says Mr Scutt.

"With this new partnership, we will look to both enable continuity of services and rapidly expand this workforce so that more Australians can redirect their skills to provide both paid and volunteer support to older Australians.

"In addition, we will be giving aged care providers and community services, like Meals on Wheels, the opportunity to tap into this large workforce to ensure vital services in the community can continue.

"Expanding this workforce will mean there are more people ready to support older Australians with important tasks like getting out of bed to personal care, help with shopping, picking up medicines and social company, which Mable also enables people to provide virtually via its platform."

Mr Scutt adds that this partnership also gives an opportunity to people who are suddenly out of work, because of the coronavirus, and may discover a new career in providing care and support to older Australia.

However, workers are required to meet a specific standard of training to register on the platform and must undertake COVID-19 training.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide's COVID-19 update page. 

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email journalist@dps.com.au.

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