Aged care in critical need of transparency 

9 July 2020

In South Australia we’ve seen aged care providers attempt to scale back staff during COVID times by restructuring rosters and reducing hours. This is despite additional COVID-19 funding from the Federal Government.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) has been actively engaged in protecting the rights and working conditions of aged care workers, to ensure they can provide appropriate care.

Some recent examples of cases where we are working with members to protect their working conditions and the safety of those in their care include:

  • A provider was planning to restructure rosters to 12 hours for staff in all job roles at the site due to the COVID-19 crisis. This was successfully challenged based on the Enterprise Agreement clause for maximum hours that staff can work.
  • A provider advised us that reductions to working hours and changes to current rostered shifts were underway. A risk mitigation document clearly identified several areas of concern and increased risk to residents and staff at the site. An additional Worksite Representative has been recruited and consultation is still ongoing.
  • One provider has been delaying Enterprise Agreement negotiations. In addition, it appears that nurses were being paid at an hourly rate that falls below the minimum rate set out in the Nurses Award 2010. We are seeking immediate resolution of this underpayment.
  • We provided support to members as they received the news of a service closure and assisted in negotiations of their packages.

The above are just a small sample of some the issues across all aged care providers, demonstrating once again a system in crisis. The Royal Commission has continued to shine a light on the struggles that staff and the people receiving care are facing but action is required now to address the staffing and skills mix within aged care facilities.

“Even the good providers are struggling to contain the need to cut staffing and meet wage claims due to insufficient funding models,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

“Given the billions of Government dollars being ploughed into the aged care industry, it is apparent the money isn’t being channelled in ways that meet the needs of aged care residents and staff alike.

“The problem is the aged care providers do not have to report how they spend tax dollars. This lack of transparency is contributing to a culture of demise,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“We call on the Federal Government to force aged care providers to open their books to public scrutiny … for complete transparency over funding and staffing – namely where the money goes. Aged care residents, staff and the wider tax-paying community have a right to know.’’  

The Queensland branch of the ANMF (QNMU) has recently been informed of more reductions to staffing at a number of facilities. We are supporting the QNMU’s call for Federal Aged Care Minister Senator Richard Colbeck and the Federal Government to step in and stop the cuts.

Visit and add your voice to the QNMU’s campaign.