The Morrison Government is investing a further $1.2 billion to prepare and protect senior Australians against COVID-19 and influenza this winter.
Aged care providers and the aged care workforce continue to operate at the frontline of the pandemic providing essential services and support to senior Australians.
Enhanced preparation within the sector and continued response capability will ensure senior Australians continue to receive safe and quality care as aged care providers face the impacts from winter viruses such as influenza, as well as continuing to respond to the threat of COVID-19.
The Government’s $1.2 billion investment includes ensuring stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) in aged care facilities, more infection prevention and control training for nurses, more vaccination training, continued COVID-19 testing for residents and staff, and financial support for providers are delivered to manage the direct impacts of COVID-19.
The Australian Government is addressing the need to keep senior Australians safe, to support the sector and to ensure all Australians can have trust in aged care.
The new investment focuses principally on residential aged care and will also benefit senior Australians who access aged care services in their own homes.
The Department of Health, through the National Medical Stockpile (NMS), will purchase and pre-deploy PPE for all residential aged care facilities (RACFs) at an estimated cost of $964.9 million. This PPE will be delivered to all RACFs nationally, providing enough PPE to equip a service for two weeks. In the event of an outbreak, RACFs can access more PPE.
An additional $124.9 million will be invested to help residential aged care providers to manage the direct impacts of COVID-19 on their facilities and residents, including the costs of additional workforce.
This investment will extend until 31 December 2022, supporting providers by reimbursing COVID-19 associated costs through the COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension grant opportunity.
It supports the ‘ready to deploy’ surge workforce, which RACFs can access to ensure continuity of care for residents and provide essential workforce support. This will continue to ensure the care and health of senior Australians in residential aged care is managed in the event of an outbreak.
Effective and strong infection prevention and control (IPC) leadership during the management of a COVID-19 outbreak has been found to contribute to a more positive outcome.
The Australian Government will continue to support aged care nurses to access critical IPC training by providing up to 2,907 training places through an investment of $37.6 million.
This training equips nurses in RACFs with the skills to improve IPC practices in aged care facilities and respond appropriately if an outbreak occurs.
This funding will reduce the financial burden on residential aged care providers of having nursing staff achieve IPC qualifications by reimbursing costs associated with training through a grant process.
Importantly, Minister Colbeck acknowledged and thanked the existing IPC workforce who have already played a critical role across the sector as facilities manage the ongoing response to the pandemic.
An investment of $50.4 million over 4 years will also ensure RACFs are better placed to provide vaccinations to the senior Australians in their care, through more training for Authorised Nurse Immunisers (ANIs).
ANIs will improve the speed and efficiency of vaccination programs, such as those for COVID-19 or seasonal influenza, which are significant risks to senior Australians living in a RACF.
The funding supports 4,000 training places for registered nurses in RACFs to become ANIs. It will also cover the associated costs for RACF providers of study leave for staff, and backfilling nursing roles.
The spread of the Omicron variant and the rise in RACF outbreaks has driven demand for COVID-19 testing in aged care, both for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid antigen testing (RAT).
COVID-19 testing of residents and staff of RACFs remains an important infection control measure and will continue with an extension of the existing testing contract with Sonic Healthcare. This investment, worth $22.1 million, will deliver continued COVID-PCR testing within RACFs to 30 September 2022.
The Australian Government is adding a further $7.9 million for Primary Health Networks to deploy medical deputies, nurse practitioners and practice nurses to conduct home visits to COVID-19 positive patients in RACFs.
Enabling clinician visits to RACFs will help with COVID and non-COVID care in facilities with COVID outbreaks providing additional patient care and supporting resident health and wellbeing.
The Australian Government remains committed to a safe re-opening of Australia through the National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response, and continues to place the health, safety and wellbeing of senior Australians and other vulnerable groups as its highest priority.