Aged care nurses call for more government help

Aged care nurses and supporters protesting in Gosford

Aged care nurses and supporters protested in Gosford on February 24 to highlight the need for staffing ratios and greater transparency of government funding linked to care.

Retired nurse of 48 years, Debbie Lang, was at the protest and said she hoped the report coming out on February 26 by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will bring change.

“For too long, aged care has had issues addressed with a Band-Aid,” Lang said.

“Currently, some facilities have beds of up to 170 people, and they have one registered nurse on duty – that is not good enough.

“People in aged care really require quality care, constant supervision and oversight, and they need to get appropriate care when their condition declines.”

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) is calling for legal minimum staffing and a mix of skills in the workplace; transparency and accountability for government funding; mandatory ongoing skills development, paid for by the employer; and more government funding linked to direct care and staff wages.

“COVID has highlighted a lot of issues in aged care, as to how well educated the staff are,” Lang said.

“The majority of staff have not been continually educated and upgraded to a level that is adequate for what they need to provide care for the residents.

“There needs to be always that level of qualification involved around age care.

“The team looking after people in aged care, PSA, AIN’s, enrolled nurses, it needs to be a team effort.”

NSWNMA Acting General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said the government could no longer ignore aged care.

“The Morrison Government must act now to mandate staffing ratios, this isn’t just a national emergency – it’s life and death,” Kiejda said.

“Aged care nurses have been on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We urgently need sufficient staffing levels and skills mix, to cope with the intensified demand and workloads.

“The tragedies we saw in NSW and Victorian nursing homes during the pandemic last year clearly show why aged care providers must be legally required to have minimum staffing and skills mix.

“Aged care has suffered from chronic and widespread understaffing and a lack of transparency in how government funding is spent.

“The Royal Commission has proven how desperate the situation is in aged care.

“Regardless of the outcome, the government can’t ignore the need for better staffing and greater transparency around funding linked to care.”

The NSWNMA said the Morrison Government cannot continue to stall on its responsibility to urgently fix the aged care sector.

Jacinta Counihan