Roving vaccination teams to target lagging nursing homes ahead of deadline

Roving vaccination teams to target lagging nursing homes ahead of deadline

September 13, 2021

For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.

Federal vaccination teams will be sent to aged care homes to offer jabs to the remaining 24,000 unvaccinated workers in the sector by the end of the week before state and territory jab mandates come into effect on Friday.

Days out from the deadline, a small number of nursing homes, mostly in regional areas, are still reporting more than half their staff have not received at least one jab as required by public health orders designed to safeguard elderly residents.

Roving vaccine clinics will visit nursing homes this week to offer jabs for staff.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Unions and industry groups are looking to the federal government, which is confident few facilities will need help, to provide backup workers if existing staff have to take leave or resign because they are unvaccinated when the public health orders come into force.

However, those orders give nursing home operators some leeway. In Victoria, for example, staff who have booked to have their first vaccination by October 1 are allowed to keep working as long as they wear full protective equipment at work in the days before they receive the shot.

Figures from the federal coronavirus vaccination taskforce, Operation COVID Shield, show 90.9 per cent of the country’s 273,214 residential aged care workers had received at least one dose as of Monday, up from just over 50 per cent in early August. That leaves about 24,000 still to be jabbed.

“We have identified the remaining providers with unvaccinated workers and have roving clinics visiting these facilities to ensure we offer all workers the opportunity to get a jab by the end of the week”, a spokesman for the operation said.

Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said the federal government was prepared to provide backup workers but statistics and feedback from the sector showed they would be needed in only a few cases.

“We’re not expecting a huge number of people that won’t get vaccinated,” Senator Colbeck said. “It’s one or two per provider at the most that we’re seeing come through. So they [the sector] are not expecting huge issues.”

He noted federal figures showing some providers lagging could be due to reporting delays or data quirks.

Anna Whitney, from Fitzgerald Aged Care in the Hawkesbury region northwest of Sydney, said despite the map showing her facility had fewer than 10 per cent of staff vaccinated, almost all workers were immunised. “I’ve got no idea what’s going on with that because those numbers are extraordinarily inaccurate,” Ms Whitney said.

Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney, whose lobby group represents nursing home operators, said he was encouraged by the number of operators with vaccination rates above 90 per cent.

Mr Rooney said LASA was talking to the government about what would happen to staff who were unvaccinated by the deadline and the supports that would be in place so providers could maintain standards once the mandate began.

“Our primary focus is to ensure resident and worker safety is not compromised,” Mr Rooney said.

Despite residents overwhelmingly being vaccinated, outbreaks in several NSW nursing homes in recent weeks have underscored the risk still posed by coronavirus.

Lloyd Williams, national secretary of the health workers’ union that represents about 96,000 workers, said he was worried the government had not done enough planning to manage workforce shortages in an already stretched industry.

“The government has very much put it on to service providers to manage it,” he said. “Regional areas are the highest risk [of low vaccination rates] and they’re going to be the highest risk in terms of getting a replacement workforce if workers aren’t allowed to work.”

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article