With COVID deaths in aged care mounting and reports of neglect of residents due to acute workforce shortages, Scott Morrison on Monday announced bonus payments totalling up to $800 for staff.
Two payments of up to $400 each will be made on a pro rata basis, according to hours worked. The first payment will be provided next month, with a second by early May. The cost will be $209 million.
A main aim of the payment is to try to encourage qualified workers to stay in the system.
Both workers, who are low paid, and facilities have again been hit hard in recent weeks, as Omicron has raged. Aged care residents were early casualties of the pandemic, with many hundreds of deaths in Victoria in 2020. Now they are again in the frontline of casualties. In January some 447 people in residential aged care have died with COVID.
Staff shortages have been acute in the sector during Omicron with many workers having COVID or furloughed because of being close contacts. There have been reports of residents missing showers and meals being delayed, and many families are not able to visit when facilities have outbreaks.
On Monday NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet expressed concern about the significant number of aged care deaths. NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant stressed the need for residents to receive their boosters and Perrottet offered state support to get the jabs finalised.
Aged care is a federal government responsibility.
Announcing the bonus, Morrison said none of Australia’s health outcomes “would be possible without the hard work, long hours and dedicated care offered by our frontline health and aged care workforce.
"Their resilience over the past two years has been inspiring.”
Morrison said the latest commitment built on the $393 million provided over three payments to 234,000 aged care workers earlier in the pandemic.
The payment will be for workers in government-subsidised home care and to aged care workers providing direct care, food or cleaning services in government-subsidised residential care.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday that about 99% of aged care facilities were expected to have had their boosters available by the end of the day, with the rest in “coming days”.
Hunt said 60% of the aged care deaths were people who were receiving palliative care.
He said there was a 99% vaccination rate among aged care staff (this means two shots).
Anthony Albanese said at the weekend the government should be supporting an increase in wages for age care workers in the case currently before the Fair Work Commission.