Aged care left reeling from outbreaks and lockdowns 

20 January 2022

The COVID crisis has hit aged care hard with as many as 30,000 elderly residents in South Australia in lonely lockdown and more than a half of the state’s 270 aged care facilities (155 homes) impacted by outbreaks (Federal Government figures as of January 14).

More than a third of residents have fallen ill at various sites, with three deaths inside homes. 

Providers want funded rapid antigen tests (RATs) to help screen visitors after spending thousands of dollars on screening staff and residents.

On Monday 17 January, SA received 456,000 RATs and another 2.3 million will be delivered by Australia Day next week, the Adelaide Now website reports. Providers hope rapid home kits will help them ease visiting rules.

“Lockdowns are detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of our aged care community,’’ ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said.

“Any measures which can safely mitigate the impact of lockdowns will bring welcome respite from social isolation to long-suffering residents and their families alike.

“Confinement to a small room with no access to family and friends for long periods of time has a heavy psychological and emotional toll and can render the elderly even more vulnerable to ill health.’’  

Eldercare chief executive officer Jane Pickering told the ABC around half of South Australia's 30,000 aged care residents were this week subject to full or partial lockdowns at their homes.

She said aged care homes were having trouble sourcing certain sizes of N95 masks as well as protective gowns for staff, and there were not enough rapid antigen tests available for staff and visitors.

The State Government is revising rules to allow aged care workers who are considered close contacts to return to residential care homes earlier, in a bid to ease staff shortages. 

Meanwhile, aged care providers, the ANMF and other unions have united to call on the Prime Minister to deploy the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to provide emergency support and assistance to overstretched aged care workers in aged care facilities across the country. Providers and unions also want the federal government to fund additional direct payments for staff to secure the workforce.

The escalating crisis in aged care has left services around the country reeling, putting care for older Australians at risk due to chronic staffing shortages.  Older people are at risk of missing out on essential care because of this.  Lockdowns are restricting many residents to their rooms as services work to keep them safe.

Click here to view the full media release