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Substandard aged care a result of inadequate staffing levels

Photo: ANMF
Residents in aged care facilities are receiving substandard care due to inadequate staffing levels - a consequence of providers being permitted to self-determine adequate staff numbers, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

“The ANMF’s national workforce survey showed that 92% of aged care nurses and carers were being asked to care for the same number of nursing home residents with less staff or less rostered care hours,” said ANMP Federal Secretary Lee Thomas.

“At nursing homes across Australia, it’s now not uncommon for just one enrolled or registered nurse to be on shift, caring for up to 130 residents.”

As a result, basic care requirements such as bathing and feeding, along with more complex needs like pain and dementia management, are all being compromised.
“As we know, residents should receive an average of 4 hours and 18 minutes of care per day – compared to the current 2.84 hours being received,” said Ms Thomas.

“As nurses, that’s a great concern to us, as it would be for residents and their families.”

The consequences of inadequate staffing extends beyond residents, impacting the physical and mental health of nurses and carers.

Research has shown that aged care experiences some of the highest levels of work overload among health workers, with increasing numbers of aged care workers performing unpaid overtime and experiencing low career satisfaction.

“They’re frustrated and disillusioned at their inability to provide decent care due to inadequate staffing levels and now considering quitting their jobs.”

Ms Thomas’s comments come off the back of last month’s Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients Bill 2017), introduced by Senator Derren Hinch, which seeks to mandate nurse and carer to patient ratios.

“The ANMF believes this crisis in aged care is the consequence of the Federal Government allowing providers to determine ‘adequate’ levels of care to meet the basic needs of their residents,” she said.

“As we’ve seen in Queensland in recent months, some providers simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing. They’ve sacked nurses and cut over 2000 of nursing and care hours for residents. It’s a disgrace.”

According to research conducted by Monash University Professor Joseph Ibrahim and published in the Medical Journal of Australia, over the past 13 years, preventable deaths have increased by 400 per cent as a result of poor staffing levels.

“This surely must yet again prove why we urgently need mandated nurse and carer to patient ratios.

“Rest assured, the ANMF will intensify our campaign for mandated staffing and we will keep the pressure on federal Senators and MPs to support Senator Hinch’s Bill – for the sake of all elderly Australians and their families.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.