Catholic Health Australia says the federal government's decision not to address aged care workforce remuneration is a "bitter blow" to the sector.
Catholic Health Australia (CHA) accounts for approximately 10 per cent of hospital-based healthcare in Australia, 12 per cent of aged care facilities and 20 per cent of home care and support for the elderly.
The organisation said the aged care workforce is struggling with fatigue, spiralling living costs, low morale and a growing shortage of carers and nurses.
Tuesday's Budget did include $49.5 million for aged care training places and clinical placements for nurses. However, CHA described this as, at best, a "Band-Aid" that underscores a tin ear to the risk that workforce pressures pose for the quality and safety of aged care services.
CEO Pat Garcia said, “Additional training places are all very well, but the sector is struggling to attract and retain aged care workers because they are simply not paid enough for the essential and demanding caring role they perform for the Australian community.
“When unemployment has the figure three in front of it then it makes the job of attracting people to the industry and to training places that much harder."
Mr Garcia said the Budget was an opportunity to deliver real reform to ensure a sufficient and qualified workforce to care for the increasing number of older Australians needing care and support.
“The Government has previously announced that minimum staffing levels will be mandatory in residential aged care, but it is far from certain whether there will be the workforce available to meet these standards, let alone the additional workforce required for the significant increase in the number of home care packages and the needs of the ageing cohort of baby boomers," he said.
“The Government could not even bring itself to support the Royal Commission’s recommendation for a change to the indexation formula for personal and nursing care funding that could have prevented further wage erosion. Sadly, that is not in last night’s Budget.
“It is vital therefore that once the Fair Work Commission hands down its decision on the current minimum award rates claim for aged care workers whoever is in government commits to fully fund the wage increases. Failure to fully fund a wage rise will mean that Australia will be unable to attract, retain and grow the skilled aged care workforce that is so desperately needed."