Updated report: The COVID-19 Long-Term Care situation in Austria

Andrea E. Schmidt, Kai Leichsenring, Heidemarie Staflinger, Charles Litwin, Annette Bauer

Key findings:

  • The Austrian LTC system has been placed under huge pressure during the COVID19 crisis as it has not been considered the most important area of intervention from the onset. Masks and security gear were scarce and often missing in care homes and especially in home care. However, the number of cases as well as the number of deaths in care homes was generally lower in Austria than in other countries.
  • The Austrian government has created a 100 million euro LTC support fund to help regional governments find alternative sources of provision, if informal carers who provide more than 70% of all care, or migrant personal carers who cover about 6-7% of people in need of care, might drop out due to illness, travel restrictions or other reasons.
  • An issue with the Austrian LTC system is its significant reliance on live-in migrant carers (personal carers) from the neighbouring Slovak and Czech Republics, but increasingly also from Romania and Bulgaria.
  • COVID-19 travel restrictions are drastically challenging this model and regional governments have increased their efforts to safeguard the continuity of care at home by migrant personal carers. After several weeks of round the clock care, these carers who normally work bi-weekly shifts were suffering from physical and emotional stress, while those who were stranded in their home countries and were consequently unable to work, were left with no income during this period.
  • Further debate about the model of ‘24-hour care’ provision by live-in migrant carers in Austria is needed. This also needs to be addressed in a wider European context, as many countries, e.g. Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany, are using the model without any regulations. This compromises the working conditions and social security of care workers and eventually the safety of people in need of care.
  • Since 4th May, visits to care homes are allowed again, though under specific security measures, e.g. visiting zones, definition of visiting times, registration, special hygiene, physical distancing, one visitor at a time, masks and/or plexiglass windows. Since 9th June, children are also again allowed to visit people in care homes.

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