Australia’s Aging and Disability Care Sector Crisis
The aging/disability sector is currently under a not-so-publicized crisis, as there appears to be a shortage in the number of workers required to care for the elderly. As a result of this, nearly a quarter, or the equivalent of about 140,000 aged care shifts in the country, fails to get filled every week.
The sector appears to be experiencing a loss of required workers despite the Australiangovernment’s intervention in the form of $400 bonuses promised to workers. The government’s intervention was intended to address the shortage of workers in the sector, but this has only led to calls for the government to do more in order to address the situation.
Disability sector employment vacancies are as high as 30% in some cases, as has been reported in the sector since the outbreak of Omicron. However, workers in the disability sector cannot access the government intervention funds for elder care workers, because they’re not eligible for them. This is even though what they do is similar, and they work under equally tough conditions.
This exclusion also affects workers for the country’s big home care providers, who often have to carefor both the elderlyand the disabled. According to reports, these providers will be penalized for NDIS patients, and about 40% of their staff will not be able to access the intervention funds .
The absence of such a significant portion of workers in the sector at all times forces the care providers to make tricky decisions regarding who gets care, which essential services to provide, and the shifts to prioritize.
The worker shortage in the sector is at an unprecedented level, as providers are typically having shortages that range from 15% to 50% (ever since the outbreak of Omicron), with the average figure being about 25%.
The Australian government has made strides to address this crisis by calling on volunteers, retired nurses, student nurses, and available hospital staff, and by incentivizing participation. This has resulted in a surge of about 1,000 new workers, which sitll isn’t nearly enough to resolve the need on the ground.
Another option that has been considered is the use of military officials to provide support in the industry. This hasn’t come to fruition as it isn’t considered a viable option. However the staff and care providers in the sector have been doing all they can with the resources they have.
Those resources have been stretched so far; figures show that in January 2022 alone, there were about 23,900 covid cases, and nearly 500 residents of eldercare homes died from the disease. That figure exceeds the total number of aged care residents that died last year.