Up to 1700 ADF personnel to be deployed to aged care
At the request of Emergency Management Australia, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is providing military planners as well as augmentation and ADF-only quick reaction teams to support aged-care facilities in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the weekend, ADF personnel undertook induction training with healthcare provider Aspen Medical and joined civilian staff in aged-care facilities that afternoon.
Defence will deploy four Quick Response Support Teams, which will consist of nurses and general support staff and will expand to a total of 10 teams from next week. Specialist teams of 50 personnel are being readied in the four states experiencing greatest pressure. The commitment will be expanded to up to 200 personnel in each state and territory, or up to 1700 personnel, if required.
In a joint media statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt said this immediate support through the Department of Health will help stabilise outbreaks and support staff shortages in residential aged-care facilities.
"The ADF is not a shadow workforce and cannot replace skilled aged-care workers, but they will assist across facilities including logistics and general duties tasks. For example, screening of entrants to facilities, providing companionship to residents, 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," the statement said.
"This effort builds on the significant contribution Defence has made to help the effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic including more than 24,000 ADF who have contributed to Operation COVID-19 ASSIST including quarantine compliance and management, contact tracing, ambulance driving, delivery of food to vulnerable Australians and during the outbreaks in aged care in Victoria in 2020.
"Under an agreement with the private hospitals, additional staff are being made available for aged care and the changes to furloughing guidance is providing additional capacity. It follows interim guidance to the sector, issued in early January, which set out advice to residential and home care providers aimed at protecting the workforce and limiting exposure risks through strengthened screening, including use of rapid antigen tests and additional PPE requirements."
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