Crisis in aged care continues: Minister must act

Thursday 5th April, 2018

The declining quality of care in residential aged care facilities, as highlighted once again by last night’s ABC 7.30 report, must be addressed without any further delay, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The urgent problem that needs to be addressed is not funding, but the declining quality of care because of chronic understaffing of aged care facilities. More funding may be necessary, but without adequate measures to ensure that government funds are used to increase care through higher staffing levels there is no point in increasing funding.

Last night’s investigation by the 7.30 program revealed how a lack of qualified staff and the failure to recognise clinically significant incidents led to unnecessary suffering for residents, families and staff, and even premature death for one resident, in an aged care facility in Bundaberg. The facility failed 15 of 44 standards set by the Aged Care Quality Agency after retrenching up to 11 enrolled nurses in the months leading-up to the resident’s death.

“In August last year when we learnt that Blue Care was sacking nurses across its aged care facilities in Queensland, ANMF members warned the provider and the government that residents would suffer,” A/Federal Secretary of the ANMF, Annie Butler, said today.

“And tragically, that’s exactly what has happened. And worse, we know that what’s happened at Blue Care is happening around the country as providers continue to employ fewer and fewer nurses to care for an increasing number of vulnerable residents with increasingly complex medical needs.

“From 2003 to 2016, there has been a 13% reduction in trained nursing staff working full-time in aged care facilities. Nursing home residents are receiving 2 hours 50 minutes of care per day from nurses and carers, well below the 4 hours 18 minutes they should be getting. This is at a time when the profits of many aged care providers continue to rise. And it’s clearly taking its toll on our elderly, their families and aged care nurses struggling to cope with dangerously high workloads, who are now starting to speak out.

“The ANMF does encourage our members and the families of nursing home residents to report any concerns they have to the Aged Care Complaints Commission. However, we are losing faith in the capacity of the current aged care regulatory system to protect elder Australians.  It is now time for action.

“The Federal Government, Opposition and all other Federal politicians must stop ignoring the staffing crisis in aged care. They must stop conducting reviews, inquiries and reports and start fixing the problem by making ratios in aged care law.

 “The ANMF’s new national campaign, featuring people involved in the aged care system, highlights how in the absence of mandated staffing ratios, dangerously low-levels of nurse and carer staffing continue to put the lives of the elderly at risk. Aged care is a national disgrace. It’s a crisis that shames us all.” 

ANMF media release authorised by Annie Butler, ANMF Acting Federal Secretary. 1/365 Queen St, Melbourne.

The ANMF, with over 268,500 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ANMF media inquiries: Richard Lenarduzzi 0411 254 390.