ADF support for Australia’s aged care sector has been boosted and extended until at least the end of September, with COVID-19 outbreaks infecting 6000 residents and 3250 staff across the country.
“It’s important that we need to be doing everything we can to meet the challenge,” Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles told ABC News on Monday.
“It’s not just extending the military support to aged care, it’s actually increasing it up to 250 personnel through until the end of September.”
Mr Marles said it was important to note the solution to the crisis was not a long-term one and that it was fair to describe it as “an extreme measure”.
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“Given the number of outbreaks that we’ve got right now, this is the right thing to do and I’ve got no doubt that those personnel will equip themselves professionally and fantastically in the way they do their work,” he said.
Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said there are 983 outbreaks in residential facilities nationwide, with 24 Defence personnel currently assisting a “surge workforce” formulated to cope with the winter infection wave.
However the problem has been finding enough staff.
“We simply cannot find the staff,” Ms Wells told ABC radio.
“People are doing double shifts, people are working every single day without breaks. It’s an incredibly stressful environment.”
Aged and Community Care Providers Association interim chief executive Paul Sadler says up to 15 per cent of staff are isolating or quarantining at home, with the coming weeks set to put intense pressure on residents and workers.
“The reality is we can’t leave older people without adequate levels of care for too long,” he said at the weekend.
Mr Sadler said 2301 residents had died in 2022, including 114 in the past week.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, meanwhile, conceded it is understandable some Australians are confused about the latest advice for wearing face masks as the virus wave continues to sweep the nation.
While there is no fresh mask mandate, most states and territories are advocating their use indoors or when social distancing is not possible.
Australia’s death toll has surpassed 11,000, rising by 36 on Sunday.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:
* Victoria: 10,261 cases, no deaths, 855 in hospital with 35 in ICU
* NSW: 10,769 cases, seven deaths, 2329 in hospital with 58 in ICU
* Queensland: 6109 cases, no deaths, 1024 in hospital with 28 in ICU
* Tasmania: 1025 cases, two deaths, 183 in hospital with two in ICU
* WA: 3856 cases, four deaths, 432 in hospital with 24 in ICU.