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Greens push for $3 billion aged care funding boost

The “codified national preparedness plan” is meant to act on the lessons from Victorian outbreaks, in which one home, St Basil’s in Melbourne, left federal officials in the dark for five days before telling them of infections.

It is also meant to ensure state and territory governments act quickly to suspend elective surgery, to free up healthcare workers if they are needed to replace infected workers in aged care homes.

St Basil's care home in Melbourne was at the centre of a major outbreak.

St Basil’s care home in Melbourne was at the centre of a major outbreak.Credit:Jason South

With aged care under pressure, Mr Bandt will focus on systemic issues such as private operators reaping millions of dollars from the industry, as revealed by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

But the financial performance of private operators is now in doubt, as listed company Estia Health confirms virus outbreaks at some of its homes in Victoria. Estia reports its financial results on August 18, while Japara Healthcare reports on August 26 and Regis Healthcare on August 27.

Mr Bandt and Greens aged care spokeswoman Rachel Siewert want Mr Morrison to amend the terms of reference for the royal commission into aged care so it can consider the impact of privatisation.

Mr Bandt said it was time to “rethink the privatisation” because it led to the use of more casual workers and “substandard service” for older Australians.

Senator Siewert said there should be an “immediate” injection of $3 billion into aged care to ensure there were enough nurses and other staff.

The Greens want an increase in staff ratios to ensure at least one registered nurse is rostered on at all times in every facility.

The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation has been calling for better staff-to-resident ratios for several years and argued in June the issue was even more pressing due to the pandemic.

The federation released a survey in June warning 43 per cent of aged care medical staff did not think their facilities were prepared for a COVID-19 outbreak and almost half did not feel they had adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.

ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler has argued for more funding for the sector in testimony to the royal commission.

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Victorian counterpart Jenny Mikakos announced more financial support for the sector on July 19, including payments of $1500 to Victorian aged care workers who could not work because they had to go into quarantine.

Mr Morrison has signalled more spending before the royal commission hands down its final report in November.

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“Already we have made some significant responses when it comes to in-home aged care places, and in the budget we will be making more,” Mr Morrison said on July 29.

Mr Morrison discussed the state of the aged care sector with premiers and chief ministers at national cabinet last Friday and said he did not doubt all had learnt from the experience of recent weeks.

“What we agreed to do is over the next fortnight, translate that into a codified national preparedness plan that sort of brings all that to a head and ensures that those commitments are in place,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

“But I’ve got to say, I’m not doubting that those commitments will be there at all. The keenness to move to that from premiers and chief ministers today didn’t need any encouragement, I can assure you, and that’s very welcome.”

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