PETALING JAYA: An elderly care service association is urging the government to allow temporary entry of foreign workers trained in nursing and caregiving to address the shortage of such staff at elderly care homes nationwide.

It says currently, there was an inadequate supply of locals to undertake the job as many of the previous caregivers consisted of nurses awaiting placements. They have since been called to service by government and private hospitals to handle the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia.

Similarly, many locals are not interested in these jobs as they are akin to other 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) jobs, it said.

Association for Residential Aged Care Operators (Agecope) president Delren Terrence Douglas said foreign workers trained in caregiving or nursing could be temporarily allowed to address the shortage faced by the industry.

“For my home in Kedah, we had eight nurses prior to the pandemic but the number has since dwindled to only two for a home with 42 patients.

“This came as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic where a majority of standby nurses who worked at our homes were called to service by both government and private hospitals,” he said.

He added that a majority of nurses who left these care homes at the height of the pandemic have also not returned, thus leaving a big gap in the workforce of these homes.

Delren noted that even those who applied for work at these centres after losing their jobs during the movement control order have also left for other job opportunities in light of the reopening of various economic sectors.

“As such, we appeal to the government to temporarily allow elderly care operators to bring in foreign workers for both nursing and caregiving.

“Our suggestion would be that these workers can be employed on a non-renewable contract of at least two to three years so we can cope with the increasing demand at elderly care homes,” he said.

Delren added that the nurses could be sourced from the Philippines and Sri Lanka whereas caregivers could come from Indonesia, Thailand or Vietnam, adding that untrained workers could also be brought in as Agecope was also able to provide training.

“At the same time, measures should be taken by the government to produce more nurses locally so we can create a self-sustaining home-grown workforce in the future,” he said.

He noted that the increasing population of elderly also saw many homes in Kedah having to turn away seniors as they were already filled to the brim.

Agecope is the national network for operators of aged care facilities and services which coordinates these homes. It also shares resources, expertise and good practices towards providing quality aged care, with various chapters across Malaysia.

Agecope national deputy president Santok Singh similarly called for some leeway in temporarily allowing the entry of trained foreign workers for the sole purpose of caregiving.

He added that the government should also recognise elderly care as an industry of its own especially since at least 5.2 million or 14.2% of the population is set to be aged 60 years and above by 2030, based on projections by the United Nations.