ANMJ Featured Story

Editorial Lee Thomas, ANMF Federal Secretary

Saturday 22nd July, 2017

Aged care and the treatment of older Australians have been in the media spotlight of late, but not in a good way.

You may have heard or read reports about an aged care resident near Newcastle found with maggots in her mouth. Other aspects about the standard of her care are also being questioned.

In South Australia, the Oakden nursing home for older people with complex mental health needs came under scrutiny earlier this year for many disturbing incidents including gross inappropriate treatment of their residents – not to mention the unhygienic conditions they were forced to live in.

Sadly these are just two examples of many horrific incidents that are occurring in aged care facilities across the country – a clear indicator that aged care has hurtled into severe crisis.

Much of this problem is systemically linked to a lack of minimum staffing and appropriate staffing mixes in aged care facilities.

This was indicated in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recent damning report, Elder Abuse – a National Legal Response. It acknowledged a direct association with the lack of minimum staffing regulations and appropriate skill mix and the administration of inappropriate care as one of the greatest abuses of vulnerable nursing home residents.

A recent Senate Inquiry into Australia’s under-resourced aged care workforce also found nurse to resident ratios were too low and risked compromising the quality of care delivered. The Inquiry received over 323 submissions and members working on the ground in aged care recounted shocking stories of how the elderly were being neglected due to staffing shortages.

What more evidence does the government need to acknowledge this sector is in crisis and needs fixing immediately? Why as Australians are we allowing our vulnerable elderly to be treated this way?

It’s time for the government to act now and accept the recommendations made in the Inquiry and address the urgent and undeniable need for minimum staffing levels in aged care. This is critical to the survival of people living in nursing homes everywhere.

In the journal this month the feature looks at another group of vulnerable Australians – those living with mental illness. The feature delves into how the sector has been reformed over the years and why allowing mental health nurses to work to their full scope is crucial to the care of their consumers under the current model.

In news, a petition presented to the House of Representatives has called for urgent consideration to award Gold Cards to all surviving Australian nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, radiographers and laboratory technicians who volunteered in Vietnam during the war. The ANMF and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) nurses have campaigned for about 15 years for civilian nurses who served in the Vietnam war to receive access to entitlements under the Veterans’ Entitlement Act. We urge Parliament to act on this petition and give these nurses and other healthcare workers the entitlements they truly deserve.

I also urge you to read the back page this month where ANMF Federal Vice President Lori-anne Sharp debuts her first column for the ANMJ. In her article she talks about her journey as a job rep for the ANMF Vic Branch (also known as work site reps or delegates in some states) and how this has given her the confidence to take on other roles in her life.

To read more articles from ANMJ, view the full journal online at https://issuu.com/australiannursingfederation/docs/anmj_august_book_issuu