Major aged care providers have warned vaccination rates for their home care staff remain extraordinarily low, just days after the government conceded it still has no specific plan for vaccinating the workforce.
关于 150,000 aged care workers provide care to about 1 million older Australians in their own homes across the country, but the government revealed on Friday it still has no dedicated plan for vaccinating home care staff and has given the issue little focus.
It has not extended the vaccine mandate for residential workers to home care workers, 尽管 warnings weeks ago that it was an “obvious blind spot” in the rollout.
现在, at least two major providers are urging the government to treat the issue with greater urgency.
NSW’s RSL Lifecare operates a home care service across Covid-hit NSW, the ACT, and southern Queensland.
It told the Guardian just 5% of its 570-person home care workforce is fully vaccinated. 关于 11% have received their first jab.
Access to the vaccine, the organisation says, remains the number one barrier.
“For the remaining staff to rapidly receive the vaccine, the current logistical processes need to be streamlined. The way to achieve this is to have clinics established on-site,” RSL LifeCare chief executive Graham Millett said.
“Currently in NSW the wait at vaccination hubs is at least six weeks, even when they are being identified as a frontline worker.”
Catholic 健康 澳大利亚, whose members provide 20% of home care services in Australia, has also called for greater urgency.
CHA chief executive Pat Garcia said home care workers were constantly moving through the community and visiting vulnerable older Australians in their homes.
“The very nature of their job requires them to socialise with others and at this juncture with the threat of Delta variant running rampant we must do everything in our power to protect those groups,” Garcia told the Guardian.
“I would urge the government to urgently task the [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] to examine the need to vaccinate home care workers and come up with a plan.”
在周五, the government’s vaccine taskforce head, Lieutenant General John Frewen, told a Senate committee that there was no specific plan for vaccinating home care workers.
Frewen also told the committee there was “not a focused effort at the moment” on ensuring they were vaccinated.
Health department secretary Brendan Murphy said the government had deemed home care workers as less risk than residential aged care workers.
“But those workers are freely able to access vaccines at all of the potential sites of vaccination at the moment, and they’re being encouraged to do so.”
But Millett said the long waiting lists meant staff were waiting more than a month through the usual distribution channels.
“This delay is inhibiting the care our staff can provide to aged care clients in their home,“ 他说. “We are hearing anecdotally that some clients are requesting only vaccinated staff deliver their services. 很遗憾, we do not have enough vaccinated staff that can fill these requests.”
He said mobile clinics at workplaces were needed to vaccinate both home care and residential care staff.
Shadow senior Australians minister Clare O’Neil said about 84% of those receiving aged care in Australia did so at home.
“And as of today, the government has done nothing to support these frail Australians, who we know are most at risk should Covid strike,“ 她说.
“They can’t even tell us how many people who receive aged care services at home or how many workers who provide them with that care have been vaccinated. This is appalling.”
The health department said in a statement that it “strongly encourages” home care workers to be vaccinated, and said they could receive the jab through GPs, government vaccination clinics, or pharmacies.
A spokesperson said the government was only just beginning to collect data on home care worker vaccinations.
“From today, 27 七月, home care providers are required to report weekly through the My Aged Care portal on the Covid-19 vaccination status of their workforce,” the spokesperson said.
“The Government will monitor this closely to ensure the necessary measures are in place to support services, the workforce and recipients as part of Covid-19 preparation and response planning.”