Australia’s troubled aged care sector will receive a $563 million boost after more than 450 deaths and ongoing political pressure on the federal government.
Almost $250 million will be pumped into nursing homes for infection control, staffing costs and communication with families.
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.
Under-fire Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said some staff including Australian Defence Force and Australian Medical Assistance Teams staff were needed across multiple sites.
The program will continue provider grants in hotspots to support employees to stick to one workplace.
But the government doesn’t have real-time data about workers attending more than one nursing home.
Senator Colbeck also revealed the aged care regulator temporarily stopped visiting nursing homes based on health advice but checks have since restarted.
Under the extended programs, families of aged care residents will receive extended $71.4 million to care for loved ones at home during the pandemic.
Senator Colbeck earlier in the month embarrassingly failed to remember how many aged care residents had died after contracting the disease.
But on Monday he told the Senate 457 was the latest death toll.
Labor’s upper house leader Penny Wong questioned why Senator Colbeck had kept his job after other ministers had been sacked for less.
Senator Colbeck continues to resist the opposition’s calls for him to quit, saying he hadn’t considered falling on his sword.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the extended funding would allow Victoria to continue fighting the disease.
“It will help us continue to fight that and to protect our older Australians with every fibre of our being,” he said.
Senior government ministers have ruled out supporting a Health Services Union plan to raise the Medicare levy and pump up to $20 billion into the crisis-hit sector.
HSU modelling shows lifting the levy from two percent to 2.65 percent would transform the sector over four years.
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.
Matt Coughlan in Canberra