Additional funding for residential aged care providers

Residential aged care providers will receive an additional COVID-19 specific support package totalling $205 million.


The additional funding takes the total COVID-19 specific Federal Government funding for aged care to more than $850 million.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the latest injection of funds was aimed at ensuring aged care providers can offer reinforced levels of safety and care for those who need it most.


“Senior Australians are highly vulnerable to coronavirus and we are seeing the cost the pandemic is having on facilities around the country,” the Prime Minister said.


“This is about keeping those people in residential aged care, protected and safe.”


The announcement comes as National Cabinet assessed an aged care sector code of conduct for visitations to ensure residents can not only be kept safe but continue to receive the social and emotional support they need from their families at this time.


The payment – to all Commonwealth funded residential aged care providers – will be linked to the number of residents being cared for by each facility, and is aimed at covering the additional costs of caring for the health and wellbeing of residents during the pandemic.


The costs include additional staffing, training, supporting visitations and connections and the provision of personal protective equipment.


Facilities outside major metropolitan areas will receive a 50 per cent loading to cover the additional costs of providing care in these areas.


Providers will received around $900 per resident in major metropolitan areas and around $1350 per resident in all other areas.


The latest round of funding follows the $235 million retention bonus paid to residential and home care workers to strengthen the workforce during the pandemic and $101 million to support providers directly impacted by an outbreak.


Additionally, the Business Improvement Fund has been extended for another year with $48 million in support as required by providers.


“This payment will ensure providers continue to invest in COVID-19 preparedness to protect the people in their care,” Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said.


“We are seeing how devastating the impact of COVID-19 can be if there is an outbreak in an aged care facility.


“While Australia is doing well by international comparison, we must remain vigilant – particularly in residential aged care to protect some of our most vulnerable Australians,” Mr Colbeck concluded.


Editorial comment

Mr Colbeck is correct in saying that Australia is doing well by international comparisons. But that is not very hard to achieve. Elderly people are dying by the thousands from COVID-19 in overseas nursing homes.


Although the additional funding announced by the Federal Government is welcome, it does not address the fundamental issue of why elderly Australians are dying from COVID-19 in nursing homes.


Nursing homes are not hospitals. They do not have staff doctors in-house 24/7. They do not have intensive care units. They do not have intensive care specialists or intensive care nurses. They do not have ventilators. Even if they did, they do not have the specialist staff to administer or operate them. Hospitals do.


What is not being addressed is why elderly people in nursing homes are kept isolated and dying in nursing homes when anybody else in the community who was sick after contracting COVID 19 would be admitted to a hospital and treated by a team of specialist medical staff 24/7, including in an intensive care unit if they needed respiratory support.


There is every reason why COVID-19 affected vulnerable elderly aged care residents should be promptly admitted to hospitals for the care that they need to give them every possibility of surviving the disease.


Clearly, there is a fundamental problem, and a moral issue, with the value and treatment allocated to elderly Australians who are being allowed to die from COVID-19 in inadequately prepared nursing homes.


1 May 2020.