With a resident from aged care facility, Baptist Care’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge, dying last week from the COVID-19 virus, another two residents remaining in hospital and a number of staff at the facility testing positive for the coronavirus, some of the staff are refusing to come to work.
“A number of team members have advised us they will not be coming to work at Dorothy Henderson Lodge,” a statement from the facility said.
“In the current circumstances we cannot force our team members to come to work.”
Baptist Care were able to maintain staffing levels by pulling in staff from their other facilities, other health providers and agencies. Apparently additional staff were also supplied by NSW Health.
It certainly raises concern if staff at aged care facilities were to walk off the job. The Minister for Aged Care, Richard Colbeck, said “There is no reason for staff at aged care centres to avoid going to work unless they are showing symptoms, have been in contact with somebody showing symptoms or have been specifically ordered to isolate.” at a COVID-19 summit for the aged care industry in Canberra on March 6th.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation is calling on the government to support aged care staff who take time off work if they are infected with coronavirus, but do not have paid sick leave. More than ten per cent of workers in nursing homes are casual employees and do not have access to paid leave.
Minister Colbeck said, “The advice for the aged care sector is the same advice to the general community.Australians should practice good hygiene and go about their lives as they normally would.”
Leading Age Services Australia CEO, Sean Rooney, who was at the summit, said they addressed how levels of “surge staffing” might be provided in the case of an outbreak.
To boost staff numbers, part-time staff may be asked to increase their working hours. Overseas workers, who are only allowed to work up to 20 hours a week in residential aged care, might be able to have this restriction extended. Recent graduates or students may also be able to fill in if needed.
He stated that the aged care sector’s primary concern is the safety of older Australians in residential care, and the passionate and professional workforce that cares for them.
The federal government has agreed to pay 50 per cent of coronavirus costs, which fall outside usual health budgets.
My role, helping people to find a suitable aged care facility, now has an added layer. In assessing suitable facilities I will need to be vigilant to the aged care home’s status regarding COVID-19.