28/02/2022 - 08:00

Aged care labour shortages to cost health system

28/02/2022 - 08:00

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More than 1,150 elderly people in Western Australia could be stranded in hospital as labour shortages in the aged care sector threaten to reduce capacity in nursing facilities.

Aged care labour shortages to cost health system
Amana Living chief executive Stephanie Buckland was one of the aged care leaders who commissioned the report. Photo: David Henry

More than 1,150 elderly people in Western Australia could be stranded in hospital as labour shortages in the aged care sector threaten to reduce capacity in nursing homes.

The data comes from consulting firm ACIL Allen’s new report, ‘Implications of Labour Shortages in the Aged Care Sector’, commissioned by a group of aged care providers including Amana Living, Brightwater Care Group and Southern Cross Care WA

Under the worst-case scenario modelled by ACIL Allen, the sector could lose the capacity to care for 2,321 people. 

Of these people, the report estimated 50 per cent would be admitted to hospital (at a cost of $2,020 each), 25 per cent would stay at home and access home care packages and 25 per cent would be cared for by family members.

It calculated the direct impact due to increased health system costs could reach between $539.5 million and $790.1 million.

Labour shortages in the sector are due to several factors, including closed borders, an ageing population, the mining boom luring workers to better paid jobs, low attrition rates due to greater workloads and trouble attracting staff due to negative perceptions of the industry.

The problem will only get worse, with a larger workforce needed to meet the increasing demand from an ageing population.

In 2019-20, another ACIL Allen report estimated the sector employed 35,997 full-time equivalent workers, with the future workforce expected to reach 57,528 full-time equivalent workers by 2029-30.

The report said that this estimate did not account for the measures implemented by the federal government from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety which will require more workers in residential and home care services.

In the short term, aged care leaders said they were minimising the impacts of the lack of staff by filling shifts using agency employees, improving pay conditions and constantly recruiting new workers.

Data showed the proportion of shifts filled by agency staff has doubled since 2019.

However, if shortages continued, 80 per cent of respondents said they would consider reducing staff to client ratios over the next six months.

Eighty per cent of leaders also reported they would have to turn new clients away and 70 per cent suggested they would need to close beds or reduce their level of service to existing clients.

Aged care providers are calling for a Health and Social Services Workforce Plan, aged care workers to be added to the skilled migration list and more funding to provide staff with higher wages.

Providers were also looking at creative solutions like offering training and jobs to disadvantaged groups in society.

You can read more in the latest edition of Business News.

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