Senior woman and her daughter in aged care

‘Genuinely diabolical’: in-home aged care struggling to meet critical needs under Omicron surge

Published: 13 January 2022
  • national
  • 13 January 2022
  • The Guardian

Home care providers say critical care services, including nursing and medication needs, are being left to family members as they juggle limited staff numbers due to explosive growth in Covid case numbers.

Labor says the federal government’s management of the aged care sector has been “diabolical”, with Covid outbreaks in at least 495 aged care homes nationally and a shortage of rapid antigen tests.

Integratedliving Australia, which has more than 20,000 clients in regional, rural and remote areas across the eastern seaboard, said about 8% of its in-home care workforce was either infected or in isolation as a result of Covid exposure – up from 6% the previous week.

Most of its clients are on commonwealth home support programs but some have higher needs and utilise home care packages and NDIS programs.

As some services are scaled back, family members are being asked to take over critical care duties to allow staff to be prioritised where needed.

Integratedliving’s chief operating officer, Indra Arunachalam, said staffing issues were most acute in the Hunter Valley and Central Coast areas of NSW.

“This is where we are cancelling some services and some of the strategies we’ve put in there is saying: ‘Although you normally receive two hours worth of services, can we just give you one hour with those services, this time?’” she said.

“And we’re having the conversation with clients to delay domestic assistance because we need to divert staff to do the critical issues such as medication support, personal care, nursing, meals and things like that.

“In other areas where we have had no staff we’ve basically worked with the client’s family to support the clients with those critical services.”

Arunachalam said this meant that in some instances families were taking over nursing tasks and administering medical supplies so that limited staff could be directed to those with greater need.

“We are concerned that we cannot sustain this level of effort and resourcing to keep our clients and staff safe,” Arunachalam said.