Nurses and care workers call for urgent action in aged care

7 August 2020

Today, on Aged Care Employee Day, the ANMF (SA Branch) has written an open letter calling on the Federal Government to act now to ensure older Australians in aged care receive the care they desperately need and deserve.

Aged care workers work every day under incredibly difficult circumstances in providing crucial care and support to frail Australians.

Adj Assoc Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM, CEO/Secretary of the ANMF (SA Branch), said lack of resources and staffing had created a situation where aged care workers have been reduced to tears at being unable to provide the level and quality of care required.

Ms Dabars said aged care workers were “dedicated and passionate people who provide care with compassion and kindness’’. However, there were simply not enough staff to provide quality care, noting that it was very common to have one Registered Nurse for 100 plus residents.

“Over many years we have made strong submissions to various inquiries and previous (and current) Royal Commissions (into aged care), and advocated and agitated at the local level and at the federal level. We have spoken at length with political parties of every persuasion, with individual providers and representative groups. The situation does not change,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“Despite the existing failures, and the spectre of COVID-19, aged care facilities in SA are even now cutting shifts, cutting staff and adjusting rosters. This results in fewer people with the required skills and experience to provide care. At any time that would be concerning, but during a global pandemic, it is reckless and irresponsible.’’

To address the pandemic the ANMF is working with the Commonwealth and state health departments to ensure aged care workers are supported and the issues they face are urgently addressed, including:

  • Ensuring care locations are COVID-19 ready by having enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and have access to infection control training.
  • Making the case for mandated staffing levels and skills mix of workers to meet the needs of and provide care to older Australians in all aged care settings.
  • Arguing for greater accountability and transparency in funding provided to the sector so all of us can be confident that the $20 billion a year the Government spends on aged care is invested in providing care rather than boosting executive salaries or shareholder dividends.

The need to improve staffing levels and the skills of the workforce in aged care is not new. ANMF members around the country have been campaigning for safe nurse/carer to resident ratio laws in Australia’s private-for-profit and not-for-profit aged care facilities for two decades.

The ANMF (SA Branch) calls on the Commonwealth Government to urgently address this chronic problem made even more evident as aged care facilities have been hit by escalating care needs associated with COVID-19 readiness. This is the Federal Government’s responsibility, and now is the time to act.

“Older Australians who helped make this country what it is, deserve better. Their families deserve better and so too do our embattled, brave but vastly under-resourced aged care workers,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“In all health care settings, we need to not only thank our nurses and care workers for their compassion, commitment and the incredible care and support they provide every day of the year, but we must also ensure they have the time and resources that enable them to provide that care.’’

If you would like to read the open letter from the ANMF (SA Branch), you can download it here.