Coronavirus: testing urgently needed for homecare and nursing home workers in Austria

Thursday 26 March 2020

“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.” The message of the World Health Organization’s Director-General is echoing from the international stage to people’s doorsteps in Austria as the largest homecare and nursing home workers’ union GPA-djp calls for increased testing to protect the public.

A growing risk

Be it elderly people in nursing homes or those that require care at home, the patients of these workers are among the highest risk groups in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. Yet, “nursing and care workers have told us that they are on sick leave with corona symptoms but are not being tested. The spread of the virus in this particularly critical area would have catastrophic consequences,” explained Barbara Teiber, Federal Chair of the GPA-djp.

“People who do not fall into a risk group or who have been abroad are not being tested, even if they show corona symptoms. No consideration is given to the fact that care and nursing staff are more likely to be involved with risk groups. Here, rapid testing is urgently needed and, in the event of positive tests, immediate need to be taken to protect staff and patients,” added Eva Scherz, chief negotiator for the nursing sector.

Testing times

While homecare workers and personal aides are one of the fastest growing occupations across the European Union, many of those currently putting in the work are at risk themselves. Many report that a lack of equipment means both patients and workers are at risk. There is an added layer of risk to the workers whose precarious working conditions mean that as well as their health, many also risk their livelihoods.

“If the current crisis has shown us anything, it is that care work is what keeps us going. We need to protect and support these essential workers. This is true in regular times but is more urgent than ever right now in this time of crisis.

“The great work care workers are doing raises the question again whether they are getting the job conditions and wages that are fair. This crisis sheds light on this and after the crisis, we need to have a take steps to improving the hard realities of these frontline workers so that they reflect the importance and commitment of care workers for our society and economies,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.

“In the case of corona symptoms, tests must be carried out immediately by care and nursing staff. The sector and its workers are the foundation of our society, we cannot afford to let it fall apart,” concluded Barbara Teiber.

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*Picture credit: World Skills UK (CC BY 2.0)

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