Australia’s troubled aged care sector will receive a $563 million boost to lock in workforces and protect against more deadly coronavirus outbreaks.
Almost $250 million will be pumped into nursing homes to help develop staff and ensure adequate personal protective equipment is available.
Families of aged care residents will receive extended funding to care for loved ones at home during the pandemic.
A payment designed to stop nursing home workers moving between facilities will be extended in a bid to avoid further devastating outbreaks.
The single site worker program will be extended until June 2021 at a cost of $92 million.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck made the announcement on Monday after coming under sustained pressure over the government’s handling of the sector during the pandemic
“We need our aged care workers to come to work,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the funding would allow Victoria to continue fighting the disease, which has killed hundreds of nursing home residents.
“It will help us continue to fight that and to protect our older Australians with every fibre of our being,” he said.
The Health Services Union is calling for a Medicare levy hike to pump up to $20 billion into the crisis-hit aged care sector.
HSU modelling shows lifting the levy from two per cent to 2.65 per cent would transform the sector over four years.
“Australians have a clear choice,” the union’s national president Gerard Hayes said on Monday.
“We can provide dignity and decency to the generation that built this nation. And we can do it for a reasonably modest outlay.”
The plan would create 59,000 jobs across the sector, which has come under immense pressure during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lifting the levy would also improve standards for residents who would receive an extra 89 minutes of daily attention from carers, allied health therapists and registered nurses.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was quick to pour cold water on the union’s plan.
“We have no plans to do that. Our focus is on lower taxes,” he told Sky News.
“We do commit to spending more on aged care by the tune of $1 billion a year.”