Aged care workers and nursing bodies have had a mixed reaction to the federal government incentive payments to aged care workers.
Aged care workers are to receive two bonus payments in February and May of up to $800 combined, depending on the number of hours worked.
Residential aged care workers received up to three payments of up to $800 each in 2020 under a scheme designed to keep them retained in the workforce.
Victorian aged care workers and unions have slammed the federal government's industry support payments, arguing patient care is slipping and workers are being forced to pay for their own rapid antigen tests.
Unions have backed the frontline workers, arguing the government's most recent support payments are too little too late for the scrambling sector.
Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes said the payment was a pre-election political strategy rather than a serious plan to fix the chronic underpayment of aged care workers.
"Mr Morrison's latest ploy is cheap and nasty...we're into our third year of this pandemic and an exhausted aged care workforce is barely holding on," he said.
Aged care employees say the move is too little too late, arguing that in practice, nothing has changed since the Royal Commission into Aged Care report was released in March last year.
"They say that we are getting more staff or they are going to implement something new but nothing ever changes."
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation conducted a survey of over 770 health and aged care workers with preliminary findings showing one in five participants reported needing to find their own RAT's, and 27 per cent reported a 'poor' or 'very poor' testing experience.
ANMF federal assistant secretary Lori-Anne Sharp said chronic under-staffing exacerbated by COVID meant staff were unable to provide residents with necessary care.
"Many of our nurses and carers are telling us that they're still being forced to source and pay for their own RATs due to ongoing supply issues," she said.
"This is putting further emotional and financial strain on the aged care workers who are already exhausted and burnt out."
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told the ABC the payments were insufficient to meet the sector's needs.
"These workers deserve much better than being treated as the political equivalent of panic buying," he said.
"They deserve a sustainable solution."
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Tasmania's peak nursing body welcomed the announcement, but said more could be done to better support the workforce.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Emily Shepherd said the union had lobbied the federal government over some time for a COVID-19 allowance in recognition of efforts from aged care workers during the pandemic.
She said the payments would help in some way to retain some of the lowest paid workers in the health workforce.
"Our aged care members work incredibly hard and often with no additional supports during COVID-19 despite there being a significant additional workload," Ms Shepherd said.
She added the federal government could further assist the aged care workforce by legislating for a registered nurse to be on-duty 24 hours a day in all aged care sites across Australia as well as ratios with appropriate skill mix in homes.
Council on the Ageing Tasmania chief executive Sue Leitch said the payments were good news for workers, but the government would do better to support their wage case before the Fair Work Commission.
"Another issue that needs to be addressed is the workforce shortage in this sector and this is something that is being felt across Tasmania and Australia," she said.
"The sector needs new workers and the closed state and international borders of the last two years have impacted on the sector.
"As a community, we should strive to have enough workforce to support older Tasmanians in the community and we often hear community members supporting better pay and conditions for workers in the aged care sector."
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