The renovated elderly care facility in Rockhampton has 22 empty beds due to a lack of staff

Despite having up to 80 people on its waiting list, a recently refurbished aged care facility in central Queensland has more than 20 empty beds due to a lack of staff.

After two decades of planning, the first stage of a $47 million redevelopment has just been completed at Benevolent Living in Rockhampton.

But the entire top floor of the redevelopment, including 22 new beds, is idle because the nonprofit cannot find older workers to accommodate additional residents.

“Through careful financial management we have been able to deliver this beautiful new residential aged care building, only to find that we cannot fill the buildings because we don’t have the staff,” said the chief executive. Alison Moss.

Ms Moss said the industry had had chronic staffing issues for years, which were then exacerbated by the pandemic.

“It’s kind of ironic to build this perfect new building, to have empty beds, to hold up admissions,” she said.

“It’s just about trying to get all the different stakeholders working together…because from what I can see the health system and elder care is imploding and we need to solution now.”

Benevolent Living is one of many senior care centers across the country struggling to find staff.(ABC Capricorn: Katrina Beavan)

Ask for better pay

Aged & Community Care Providers Association chief executive Paul Sadler said Ms Moss’ situation was widespread across the country.

“It’s common for providers to experience a 10% vacancy rate, sometimes more, in their rosters, partly because people are sick, either with COVID or other things, but also because of severe staffing shortages. “, did he declare.

According to a recent report of the Committee for the Economic Development of Australiathe industry needs an additional 35,000 older workers across the country each year to fill growing skills shortages.

Mr Sadler said the report also found the industry had lost 65,000 employees in the past year.

“We also know that if we have a 10 per cent vacancy rate, that translates to a shortage of around 27,000 staff in aged care facilities and another 15,000 in home care services.”

man in suit with silver tie and pink shirt smiles at camera
Paul Sadler says dedicated visas could help fill labor shortages in the industry.(Twitter: Paul Sadler)

He said that although work is underway to improve the situation, including a Fair Work bid to raise the pay of older people, more could be done, including better training opportunities and career paths in the sector. .

“Aged care staff are paid less than their colleagues in the disability or health sector, and we are often not competitive with retail, tourism and other areas as well, so we need to see an improvement in elderly care wages.”

In a statement, the Department of Health and Aged Care said that in addition to the Fair Work submission, the federal government was working to address the issue by hosting its recent Labor Roundtable. aged care work.

“Tackling low pay is key to recruiting the workforce needed to deliver safe, quality care,” a spokesperson said.

Ms Moss said it was essential to be sufficiently funded to increase pay levels and that money used for renovations was stipulated that it could only be used for capital works.

‘We need to fund aged care at a level to pay parity with Queensland Health’s pay rates,’ she said.

The issue is expected to be discussed in more detail at next month’s Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.

Visas for older workers are a ‘priority’

Mr Sadler also wanted to see a dedicated visa introduced for older workers on top of the existing Australian Pacific Labor Mobility Scheme.

“It’s welcome and the [workers] have entered the services in the Queensland region, but they are relatively few in number; we are talking about tens rather than the thousands we need,” he said.

“We need visa priority for older workers, and discussions with the federal government have been relatively positive on this, but now we need action.”

Ms. Moss agreed that a faster immigration process would help.

“I now have nurses overseas who have applied to come and work for us; we have accepted their application, but they are awaiting treatment.”

The Department of Health and Aged Care has confirmed that the government is considering options to provide “streamlined pathways for the migration of older workers”.

He said this is in addition to workforce initiatives already in place to attract new workers, including advising service providers on how to obtain and retain staff, as well as offering various internships and scholarships for care nurses.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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