26 September 2023

Defence to the rescue in aged care shortages

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The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is to provide up to 1,700 personnel to help support staff in Australia’s aged care sector.

Overseen by the Department of Health, the ADF is to help stabilise outbreaks of COVID-19 and support staff shortages in residential aged care facilities.

In a statement, the ADF said as a first stage, personnel had undertaken induction training with healthcare provider, Aspen Medical.

“Initially, four ADF Quick Response Support Teams will consist of nurses and general support staff, expanding to a total of 10 teams,” it said.

The ADF said it had readied specialist teams of 50 personnel in the four States experiencing greatest pressure: Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

“Defence is ready to expand this commitment to up to 200 personnel in each State and Territory, or up to 1,700 personnel, if required,” it said.

“The ADF is not a shadow workforce and cannot replace skilled aged care workers, but it will assist across facilities, including logistics and general duties tasks.”

The ADF said examples of this work could include screening of entrants to facilities; providing companionship to residents; and supporting with meals and other non-direct care functions to take the pressure off qualified aged care workers and medical staff.

“Where they are medically qualified, ADF personnel will assist with those duties,” it said.

“This effort builds on the significant contribution Defence has made to help the effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The ADF said more than 24,000 personnel had contributed to Operation COVID-19 ASSIST, which involved quarantine compliance and management, contact tracing, ambulance driving, delivery of food to vulnerable Australians, and assisting with the response to pandemic outbreaks in aged care in Victoria in 2020.

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