Defence Minister Peter Dutton has pledged the Federal Government will “do more if required” ahead of ADF troops being deployed to help the aged care sector through its ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Almost 12,000 aged care residents and staff are currently infected with the virus, and 1176 facilities nationally are battling outbreaks.
New South Wales is the worst-affected, followed by Victoria and Queensland.
Up to 1700 Defence troops will be sent into aged care homes around the country, broken up into clinical, logistical and general help teams.
It’s a solution the aged care sector has been crying out for, with up to 30 per cent of its workforce off sick or isolating in January.
“The Australian Defence Force is known for many things but principally, I think, their ability to organise, to get things sorted out, and to make sure that we can treat people with dignity,” Mr Dutton told Today.
“That’s exactly what we’re on a path to do and I’m very proud of the work that they do.”
Mr Dutton also said that the aged care death rate, averaging about 1000 a week, had not increased during the pandemic.
“That is the reality with terminal diseases and cancers and dementia and other things as people get older,” he said.
He suggested a number of deaths attributed to the current COVID-19 outbreak would be of people dying with the virus rather than from it.
Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said while the sector was thankful for the ADF support, the fundamental issues behind the crisis remained unchanged.
“We had a royal commission that found that overall, we are understaffed and those staff are undervalued and underpaid. And it has only been magnified now through the pandemic,” he told Today.
“We need to get back to fixing the fundamentals, ensuring that we have enough staff who are adequately skilled and qualified and appropriately paid, and that services are funded to deliver all the care that’s needed to the level that’s desired.”