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I write in response to Federal Minister for Ageing Ken Wyatt’s media release titled Powerful New Reforms to Ensure Safe, Quality Aged Care (18 April 2018).
The release outlines Turnbull Government plans to increase aged care inspections and reporting of adverse incidents in Australian aged care facilities.
While this is a step in the right direction, there is still much that needs to be done to make aged care safe for older Australians. The fundamental problem with aged care is understaffing, and until this is fixed any changes by the Turnbull Government will only be responding to the symptoms, not the cause.
Australia’s 260,000-plus nurses and midwives have dedicated themselves to campaigning for Federal change on aged care. Until understaffing is addressed, changes announced today will only add additional stress and workloads to an already struggling aged care workforce.
Aged care nurses distressed and angered by elder neglect as a result of chronic understaffing will continue to tell the public what goes on behind closed doors. Like the fact there are no Federal laws that determine how Australia’s 2400-plus aged care facilities are staffed.
Or that there are no Federal laws that require even a single Registered Nurse be on site at an aged care facility at any time. Or that it’s not uncommon for a single nurse to be left with up to 200 residents at once.
Aged care nurses know elderly Queenslanders and Australians are suffering unnecessary pain, suffering and premature death due to chronic understaffing in almost every Australian town and city. It happens near daily, in nice looking facilities, while under resourced and distressed staff do their best to provide care.
Australian nurses believe aged care providers – who recently received $16 billion in taxpayer funds and reported profits of more than $1 billion – should be forced to safely staff their businesses. Like schools, or hospitals, or child care facilities.
They believe the Federal Government should focus on introducing law changing legislation around staffing – rather than increased reporting of the pain and suffering occurring in each and every Australian electorate.
Queensland and Australian nurses will not rest until the Federal Government makes safe staff levels law in Australian aged care.