Health Services Union warns of 'unprecedented crisis' in aged care sector amid Omicron

  • Published January 11, 2022

The Guardian, 11 January 2022

The Health Services Union has warned the aged care sector is experiencing an “unprecedented crisis” with “chronic understaffing, excessive workloads and extended shifts” hitting the sector amid the Omicron wave of Covid-19.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 HSU members:

  • 82% believe their facility was unprepared for the current Omicron “let it rip” approach
  • 90% are experiencing understaffing
  • 84% are experiencing excessive workloads
  • 36% are working in facilities that have implemented 12 hour shifts

Staff have also reported working 16-hour shifts, working seven days consecutively, care staff without food safety qualifications working in kitchens, a shortage of PPE for workers and a shortage of rapid antigen tests.

The HSU national president Gerard Hayes says the federal government didn’t prepare the sector for the outbreak:

"The Morrison government comprehensively failed to plan before allowing Omicron to rip through the community and modestly paid workers, and residents in aged care facilities who built this country, are paying the price. Only just over a third of members surveyed have received their booster shot, despite working overtime in high risk settings."

"There are active outbreaks in almost 500 aged care facilities across the country. Yet workers can’t access RATs, they can’t access PPE. They are on the front line with very little protection. Not only are staff at risk but vulnerable residents are at a heightened risk of severe disease or death."