The managers of a nursing home are rationing the gloves staff are supposed to wear when attending to residents, according to a HelloCare reader.
The reader, who only spoke to HelloCare on the condition of anonymity, told HelloCare that gloves are often not available for staff to wear at the aged care facility where she works.
“They are not at the wash stations, (and there is) only one box at the nurses’ station,” she said.
The directive to ration gloves appears to come from management, the reader said.
Gloves protect safety of residents and staff
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, told HelloCare aged care staff should wear gloves at work to protect their safety.
“Gloves are a fundamental part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) that all health professionals and direct care-workers, including registered nurses, enrolled nurses and care staff wear routinely as a normal part of their work to ensure the highest safety standards,” she said.
“Gloves, as a most basic component of PPE, assist in keeping both the patient/resident and the health professional and worker safe.”
“Gloves are required to be worn when the care being delivered involves exposure to body fluids or potential body fluids,” Ms Butler said.
“They create a barrier between the resident and care worker and reduce the risk of contamination of germs.”
The regulations around glove use are outlined in the Department of Health’s ‘Infection Control Booklet’.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told HelloCare, “Commonwealth-funded aged care services must meet Aged Care Quality Standards (the Standards) to ensure that quality care and services are provided to all care recipients.
“Under the Standards, aged care homes are required to demonstrate they minimise infection-related risks through implementing standard and transmission-based precautions to prevent and control infection.”
Staff pay for gloves out of own pocket
The reader told HelloCare that staff at the facility where she works are finding ways around the rationing by buying their own gloves, ensuring they are doing the right thing, not only for residents, but also for themselves.
“Most carers bring their own gloves to work and leave them in the car, just in case we have none,” the reader told HelloCare.
The reader said on one shift she might have been “forced” to work without gloves, but a carer came to her rescue, buying some at nearby shops, and paying for them out of her own pocket.
“The money was out of her pocket as she won’t get reimbursed!” the reader said.
Employers are required to supply gloves
Ms Butler said employers have a responsibility to supply gloves as part of ensuring a safe workplace.
“Gloves should be provided in a residential aged care setting so that the employer is complying with the relevant work health and safety law in their state/territory.”
“Employers are required to provide and ensure safe workplaces. Employees also have a responsibility to ensure their own health and safety, she said.
Finding gloves causes work delays
The reader told HelloCare that during one shift she thought was going to have to refuse to change continent aids because there weren’t any gloves available that day.
“Thankfully the RN gave her permission to leave work to buy some,” she said.
But having to run to the nurses’ station or go to the shops to get gloves interrupts the carer’s work, and can mean she’s behind with her work by more than half an hour.
That’s “a lot (of time) for this industry!” she told HelloCare.
Finding gloves “holds everyone up,” she said.
“Stressed” and “upset” by rationing
The rationing is leaving the reader feeling “stressed”. “It upsets me so much,” she wrote in a message to HelloCare.
Ms Butler said it was understandable that staff would be upset that an item as crucial as gloves are being being withheld.
“It would obviously not be good for staff morale when an employer appears to be cutting corners on staff and resident safety,” she said.
“It is no wonder the staff members feel upset and stressed. Providing gloves is a basic, essential requirement in a residential facility to assist in keeping both the residents and staff safe. Staff may feel that the provider does not care about their and residents’ safety.”
Good hand hygiene no substitute for gloves
Ms Butler said simply ensuring good hand hygiene, though important, is no substitute for wearing gloves.
“Provision of gloves is an important hygiene protection that is distinct from hand hygiene,” she said.
“Hand hygiene is required before putting on gloves and immediately after removal.”
No gloves increases the chances of passing on infections
Ms Butler said staff and residents can be exposed to serious illness such as flu, gastro, skin infections, tuberculosis and multi-resistant organisms when gloves are not worn when necessary.
It’s particularly important that gloves are worn when care staff are looking after older people.
“As (aged care) residents are generally older, they are more vulnerable because their immune systems may not be able to fight infection,” Ms Butler said.
Who can you talk to?
Ms Butler said if staff find themselves in a situation where gloves are being rationed, they can contact the Aged Care Safety and Quality Commission or their union.
“Unions have power under OHS legislation to progress matters such as these,” she said.
“They can also provide advice on how to progress the matter with the employer and potentially further.”
Have you experienced gloves being rationed at an age care facility where you have worked?