Home | Industry & Reform | Aged care nurses call for accountability
Aged care nurses and carers met with politicians to discuss the poor conditions of the sector. Picture: Supplied/NSWNMA

Aged care nurses call for accountability

Around 60 aged care nurses and carers from across Australia travelled to Canberra to address "ongoing failures" by providers, and to call for accountability.

The group stood together to call out aged care providers, saying "they can't be trusted" to uphold the standard of care for older Australians.

Aged care nurses and carers also arranged meetings with politicians in hopes of providing a first-hand account of the workload pressures they faced.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) secretary Annie Butler said many providers were "cutting corners" and failing to comply with the mandatory care minutes.

"Our members are reporting that many providers are failing to meet the mandatory staffing requirements and are instead rearranging rosters to appear compliant," Ms Butler said.

"They are removing roles like enrolled nurses and replacing them with less qualified positions, which is unacceptable.

"Providers are also placing increased pressure on staff by asking them to perform non-care work like serving meals and washing dishes."

Ms Butler said that the providers needed to "step up", be meeting obligations and be held accountable.

Aged Care Watch, an anonymous online reporting system, had thousands of accounts shedding light on the chronic understaffing and workforce pressures faced.

Accounts ranged from sections being understaffed with "four care workers for 40 residents" and "attending double shifts alone".

One account said existing staff were skipping breaks, staying after their shift to complete paperwork, and working outside their scope to complete tasks.

"The facility has reduced the number of lifestyle staff and food service staff. AINs are now expected to serve food, collect meal trolleys, and take residents to and from activities."

Current and upcoming reforms have put an already stretched sector racing against the clock.

The Department of Health and Aged Care found that residential aged care faced a gap of 5,918 nurses – an improvement of only 44 from government forecasts during the December quarter.

Since September 2022, 54 aged-care homes have been closed due to staffing reforms such as 24/7 mandatory registered nurses (RN) and minimum-care requirements, with 78 per cent of providers struggling to meet the current minutes.

The sector is now racing to comply with the upcoming 215 minutes of care, including 44 minutes of RN care starting from October 1 of this year.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) general secretary Shaye Candish said nurses and carers needed to feel empowered to speak up about their inadequate workplace conditions.

"We need to give aged care nurses and carers greater agency by allowing them to monitor compliance and identify risks in real-time, to ensure aged care facilities are meeting quality standards," said Ms Candish.

"They know exactly what goes on in their facilities. They see the flaws in the system and know what needs to change to enable them to provide the care that every resident should receive.

"We also need to see greater financial transparency from providers. The federal government should not be topping up their funds with taxpayer dollars, while they are failing to improve the quality of care for older Australians."

Chief of Whiddon Chris Mamarelis said person-centred care was important over the rigorous government mandates.

"It is an unfortunate reality that the current focus on mandated care minutes and 24/7 Registered Nurse requirements is directing the focus onto compliance rather than driving quality care and truly meeting the needs of residents," Mr Mamarelis said.

"The priority for regulators and providers alike needs to be holistic, person-centred care rather than perpetuating the battle between providers to simply fill rosters. 

"At Whiddon, we know that a holistic approach to care goes beyond these clinical needs. This is why we invest and place such an emphasis on our food and dining offering, leisure, and wellbeing teams, as well as our essential direct care employees."

Aged care nurses and carers will now call on MPs and Senators to pledge their support and help in the fight to keep aged care providers accountable and meet staffing obligations to ensure working conditions improve and elderly Australians receive the quality care they deserve.

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the top stories in our weekly newsletter Sign up now

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *