A national survey by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) shows the extensive infection control measures actioned by aged care providers and the impact of additional costs to combat COVID-19, while highlighting some dissatisfaction with Government support.

“Aged care staff and providers have delivered exceptional care, protecting the most vulnerable while under great pressure,” LASA CEO Sean Rooney said.

“The impact on the workforce and finances has been considerable but the dedication to the safety of older Australians continues unabated.

“Residential and home care providers reported that implementing staff training, visitor screening, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning costs, enhanced protections and changed visitation arrangements, roster changes and leave management has placed unbudgeted demands on their services.”

All surveyed providers had enacted additional infection control training, with almost 100 per cent screening staff for COVID-19 symptoms before starting work shifts.

Nearly half reported making rostering changes to reduce the number of staff who have contact with individual residents or clients, to minimise infection risk.

There were also increased workforce pressures, with more than half of providers reporting up to a 30 per cent increase in staff leave days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In terms of staff confidence, almost half reported staff morale has remained unchanged but 31 per cent of residential care reported staff morale was ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’, reducing to 24 per cent in home care.

“The morale of management was reported as being similar, with an increasing trend for declining wellbeing among residential aged care managers when compared to home care managers,” Mr Rooney said.

“Communication and support for both staff and managers is critical and the level of commitment demonstrated by both staff and management during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extraordinary during a very intense time.”

Some providers reported PPE supplier price gouging and shortages of complete sets of PPE in residential aged care for responding to multiple cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Home care providers also reported inadequate stocks of complete sets of PPE for continued delivery of COVID-related care services.

Nearly half of residential aged care providers also noted a downturn in their Refundable Accommodation Deposit funding pool over the March-April 2020 period and this will need to be monitored ongoing.

In terms of the level of satisfaction with Government support, 62 per cent of residential providers and 26 per cent of home care providers said they were dissatisfied. However, many of these responses came in before the Government announced its $205 million COVID-19 subsidy for residential care facilities.

One residential provider said: “Information support is positive mainly but the financial drain is grave. We are not being listened to. The increase in ACFI for the three months has already been spent.”

A home care provider said: “The impact will come when restrictions are eased. That is when our clients will be most vulnerable.”

“Despite the additional costs during COVID-19, the majority of residential and home care providers said they have not deferred their planned investment to keep on improving and expanding their services for older Australians,” Mr Rooney said.

“Whether this continues to be the case remains to be seen, with many providers already under extreme financial pressure, well before the pandemic struck.”

The survey was conducted at the end of April and involved 74 residential care and 48 home care providers.

The full survey is available here.

About Leading Age Services Australia (LASA)

LASA is the national association for all providers of age services across residential care, home care and retirement living/seniors housing. Our purpose is to enable high performing, respected, and sustainable age services that support older Australians to age well by providing care, support and accommodation with quality, safety and compassion – always.

We represent providers of age services of all types and sizes located across Australia’s metropolitan, regional and rural areas. Consistent with the overall industry profile, 56% of our Members are not-for-profit providers, 36% are for-profit providers and 8% are government providers.

Our diverse and representative membership gives LASA the ability to speak with credibility and authority on issues of importance to older Australians and the age services industry.

Contact: Nick Way 0419 835 449 nickw@lasa.asn.au