Submitted by Anonymous

A confidential new memo has come out listing, in great detail, how care was poorly managed in Blue Care’s Pioneer Lodge.

While the contents of the memo might be shocking to some, especially families who have loved ones in aged care, it may not come as a surprise to people who work in the industry. However wrong and unacceptable these things are, they do happen in aged care. Whilst the ultimate responsibility stops with the organisations,  the employees committing these acts must also take responsibility.

The memo, which was circulated among staff, revealed that the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) findings as follows;

  • Observed a staff member assist 4 residents with their medication, including drops and nasal spray, but did not sanitise their hands between each resident;
  • Staff reported during their interviews with the assessment team, that there are 3 attempts made to feed the resident and if those 3 attempts fail, the food is discarded and the resident does not get fed;
  • Medications that had been left in residents room without confirmation that the resident was self medicating;
  • Observed a staff member standing and feeding two residents at the same time;
  • Observed a resident who was calling out for help, with her head hanging over the side of the bed rail and the call bell on the floor. The assessor had to find someone to assist this resident who needed to go to the toilet;
  • Staff reported during their interviews with the assessors that residents are sponged instead of being showered related to time constraints; and
  • Overheard staff members saying that they did not know where to access stocks of certain supplements that were required by the residents.

These are clear systematic failings which are not unique to this one Queensland facility.

While the facility has been covered extensively by the media, it’s important to note that Blue Care is not the first and they will not be the last facility to have care workers act in a way that is not expected of them.

Problems like those listed in the memo evolve for a number of reasons, which appears to come down to fundamental floors in a system – limited resources, organisational culture and poorly qualified employees.

It would be assumed that most staff mean well and, you do find, they do genuinely care about the residents. But in order to cope with the demands of the job, they end up cutting corners, trying to find ways to save time. A small percentage working in the industry however simply should not be there and need to find other professions because they do not and will not or cannot understand the needs of the elderly people they are employed to serve.

According to the memo, there was “significant feedback to the assessment team from both residents and staff, that there is inconsistency in staff, that there are not enough staff and that the staff are too busy.”

This is not a unique problem, and something that aged care workers would agree with but likely also many operators would quietly acknowledge too.

Other factors that impact the care provided to residents, is based around the morale of staff that are showing up to work every shift. If their morale is low, and care workers are on the cusp of burnout or compassion fatigue – where they are simply moving through the motions. They either are motivated purely by need of income or otherwise forget, when it did once matter, why they really started working in the industry in the first place. The quality of care drops and the resident is the one that ultimately suffers.

When we are working with the majority of care workers that have no professional standards to report to, minimal training and no code of conduct, there is less accountability and no-one really making them accountable.

When we look at the recent example in this Queensland facility it isn’t whether they are going to fix these things – this facility, like any other facility who are caught making such mistakes, have promised to endeavour remedies and solutions.

This facility in particular have brought on external advisers as a part of their overhaul their processes and systems that allowed these incidents to emerge.

Fixing the problem is good, it would be even better if these examples of substandard care would never happen again to vulnerable residents.

But what should also be acknowledged is how can these problems be prevented to begin with to minimise the impact on the industry, but most importantly, the quality of care for the residents to trust in.

If these systemic failings are seen far and wide across the sector, there must be systematic solutions that can be put in place. Otherwise the underlying confidence of residents in this critical industry will collapse.

While the failings seen here are not once-offs, it would be unjust to say it’s widely spread – but all it takes is a few ‘bad eggs’ to impact the culture and the care in a facility, and tarnish the quality of care experienced by residents and their families.

Perhaps focusing on the higher performing facilities, showcasing what they doing to avoid issues in the first place is something the industry can champion. Undoubtedly, there are facilities that are offering higher quality of care with minimum standards who could be commended for what they do.

The industry should be learning from the success, and not simply punishing those who are not working well in tabloids and shock & awe news features. The media too has a responsibility to support and promote good practise as well as showcase failures.

At the end of the day, if we don’t focus on the right way to do it, the primary community and people punished here are our vulnerable elderly.

 

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