ANMF (Vic Branch) has been strongly advocating on behalf of members affected by outbreaks of COVID-19 in private aged care facilities and efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
The Branch’s advocacy has involved:
- ensuring that nurses and personal care workers are not financially disadvantaged by the Federal Government’s change to funding conditions to aged care providers that restrict residential aged care workers to employment in one facility
- ensuring that aged care workers have access to appropriate PPE
- ensuring aged care workers have access to appropriate infection control training – including how to put on and take off PPE
- lobbying for appropriate staffing levels, including registered and enrolled nurses
- lobbying for appropriate support, orientation and handovers for public and private acute nurses who are assisting in aged care facilities affected by COVID-19 outbreaks.
ANMF took part in stakeholder teleconferences with the Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, employer representatives and Department of Health officials to discuss the impact of the restriction on residential aged care workers. The restriction is currently in place for eight weeks, from 27 July to 25 September 2020.
Aged care providers will only receive Commonwealth funding if employees working at multiple sites choose the site at which they do most of their hours of work as their ‘primary workplace’.
If an employer does not have sufficient rostered hours to employ nurses and carers for the hours they were working at multiple facilities, they must employ these staff for additional hours up to the hours they would be usually working. The primary employer can then be reimbursed by the Federal Government for the additional hours payment.
As of 4 August, there were 1186 active cases of COVID-19 associated with Victorian aged care facilities.
The Victorian Government announced that workers who cannot access sick leave or special pandemic leave, or have exhausted sick leave/carer’s leave, and need to isolate while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, can apply for a $450 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment. If the test is positive, the worker can then apply for a further $1500 payment. The Worker Support Payment is aimed at preventing Victorians who have no access to sick leave from going to work while they have COVID-19 symptoms.
The Federal Government has announced funding for aged care private and not-for-profit employers to provide income support to residential and home care workers if they are unable to work due to a positive test for COVID-19, symptoms, self-isolation or quarantine. This applies to all permanent and casual employees (including non-care workers).
Employers will receive funding to be able to pay for leave where the employee does not have sufficient sick or personal leave provisions or where leave is exhausted. Where a worker is eligible for the Victorian Government’s Worker Support Payment, the amount paid by the Federal Government will reduce commensurately.
ANMF is currently seeking clarification around the isolation requirements for asymptomatic aged care nurses and personal care workers who participate in routine testing.
ANMF’s personal service to private and not-for-profit aged care members
ANMF (Vic Branch) staff phoned aged care members in the 456 Victorian private and not-for-profit aged care facilities within Melbourne and Mitchell Shire on 24, 25 and 26 July respectively to enquire after their wellbeing and need for assistance.
On 30 July ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick sent a message of support and respect to all members working in private and not-for-profit aged care facilities, to state that the outbreaks were not their fault and to outline how ANMF is advocating on their behalf.
‘You have tirelessly campaigned for a better system for your residents – people’s parents, grandparents and loved ones. You have been ignored by successive Commonwealth governments – those with the power to legislate, regulate and fix the complaints,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
And you are still there caring for your residents.’