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Australia’s Covid outbreak affecting 6000 residents acts as a warning that we must get on with th...

Covid infections are currently sweeping through 1,013 of Australia’s aged care homes, leading to Providers call for urgent support as 3,400 staff infected in 1,013 facilities and fears two-thirds of homes could soon have outbreaks.

Care providers in Australia are calling for urgent action to protect residents and staff from a winter Covid-19 wave which is hitting more than one-third of the country’s facilities.

The Aged and Community Care Providers Association

The Aged and Community Care Providers Association said 6,000 residents and 3,400 staff were infected in 1,013 facilities as of Thursday.

The association’s interim chief executive, Paul Sadler, said 10 to 15% of staff were already isolating or quarantining at home, and the coming weeks will put intense pressure on aged care residents and workers. Covid deaths in aged care have reached almost 100 a week as active cases surge across Australia

“ACCPA is concerned that anywhere up to two-thirds of aged care homes could be affected."

“The reality is we can’t leave older people without adequate levels of care for too long.” Sadler said 2,301 aged care residents have died so far in 2022, including 114 in the past week.

He called for more support for a surge workforce, including Australian defence force personnel, until at least September.

Over the longer term, Sadler said, the federal government must plan to fix chronic workforce shortfalls, prepare for future outbreaks and implement reforms recommended by the recent royal commission into aged care.

“The coming weeks are critical for aged care. We must do all we can to put the protection of older people first and support our aged care workers,” he said.

Take up of vaccine

As of Saturday, a little more than 71% of Australia’s eligible population had received three or more vaccine doses. That was an increase of more than 9,500 people on the previous day, with booster coverage among aged care residents at 95%.

About 55% of eligible Indigenous people have received three or more vaccine doses.

As for fourth doses, about 31% of the eligible population aged 30 and over have received their winter boosters.

That figure hiked up to more than 65% for those aged 65 and over.

What can we learn from the Australian experience

The first thing we learn is that the third jab is not enough to offer adequate protection from Covid for care home residents and staff. Secondly, because of the staffing situation providers have called for help from Australian defence force personnel.

Take up of the booster jab in care home residents is over 95% but the population aged 30 and over only 31% have received their winter booster.

In England the Government aims to provide a fourth booster in the Autumn but are no more specific than that. We do not seem to have learned from past experience; and we are still struggling with consistency among some providers with regard to visiting homes where Covid is present. There is no published back up plan if care homes get into difficulty.

Summary

I don’t thing any of us need reminding that Covid 19 has gone away. Indeed, it is still present in many care homes. But with social care in crises, it is going to be even harder for staff to deal with this winter.

Difficulties in recruiting staff and the problems with staff not wishing to take the vaccine can only exacerbate the situation. We need to make sure that the winter booster is given to as many residents and staff as soon as we can.

If the past is any thing to go by, the Government response will be on the hoof, taking action when a crises situation arises. What is needed is a plan of action that prevents the crises before it happens.

Let’s hope that we can learn from the Australian experience and do not have need to call in the army.

Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

Photo credit: James Ross/AAP

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