Nurses are a vital part of aged care. There are involved in every part of caring for the elderly, along with carers, lifestyle co-ordinators, kitchen staff and cleaners.

So it comes as a shock to many whenever there are nurses cuts in any aged care facility.

Recently Blue Care, one of Queensland’s biggest aged care providers, announced that they would be letting go of up to 11 nurses as well as reducing the hours of their other remaining registered and enrolled nurses.

Blue Care claim that these decisions were based on on federal budget cuts which saw a reduction of $1.2 billion in aged care.

The logic, presumably, is that nurses are more expensive to hire and keep than carers.

However, this is because of the skill set that they have to offer; Registered nurses complete a three-year bachelor degree at university and enrolled nurses complete an 18-month diploma.

This contrasts with carers who require Certificate 3 in aged care – and though they are trained in a wide range of tasks needed for aged care, they are not qualified to do certain medical tasks – such as dispensing and administering medication.

Nurses are essential with the ageing population as the number of residents continue to rise, as well as the complex needs and medical regimes.

Simply replacing nurses with a higher number of lower paid carers may not be a sustainable staffing model.

Secretary of the Queensland Nursing and Midwifery Union Beth Mohle wrote an open letter about her concerns.

“Management announced Personal Carers would soon become responsible for administering and monitoring often complex combinations of medications. If incorrectly administered, these medications have the potential to cause harm to vulnerable residents.”

“Personal Carers provide a valuable assistive role in aged care. However, with just six hours training and limited knowledge of pharmacology, they cannot safely administer or monitor the effects of resident medications”

The struggle between quality care and funding is apparent – without one, the other cannot happen and many aged care operators are struggling to support their residents with the thinly spread staffing ratios.

Mohle urges that residents and their families do have some power in the care they receive, and that families “have every right to request that their mother, father or relative does not receive medication from a Personal Carer.”

“They also have the right to request a staff roster, to ask how many nurses are rostered on during the day and at night (if any) and to ask why nurse numbers are being greatly reduced.”

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