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Nursing organisations condemn Morrison Government for failures in aged care

2 Feb 2022

A joint media release from the Aus­tralian Nurs­ing & Mid­wifery Fed­er­a­tion, Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nurs­ing, Col­lege of Nurse Prac­ti­tion­ers, CRANAplus, Drug & Alco­hol Nurs­es of Aus­trala­sia, Aus­tralian Col­lege of Peri­op­er­a­tive Nurs­es and the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Men­tal Health Nurs­es Inc.

The country’s peak nurs­ing organ­i­sa­tions today stand togeth­er to con­demn the Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment for its fail­ure to pro­tect Australia’s nurs­ing home res­i­dents, and the nurs­es and care work­ers doing their utmost in a sec­tor that has been over­whelmed by COVID. And, at a time when the lat­est COVID out­breaks con­tin­ue to claim lives in Australia’s nurs­ing homes.

The Gov­ern­ment has over­seen an esca­lat­ing break­down of aged care by:

  • Fail­ing to plan for and ensure ade­quate surge work­force capacity 
  • Fail­ing to address dan­ger­ous staff short­ages in aged care
  • Fail­ing to act deci­sive­ly on the find­ings of the Aged Care Roy­al Com­mis­sion despite know­ing the pain and suf­fer­ing that chron­ic under­staffing has caused across the sec­tor for so many years.

Sad­ly, the lat­est Omi­cron wave has exac­er­bat­ed the staffing cri­sis in Australia’s nurs­ing homes.

COVID out­breaks have led to fur­ther staff short­ages and dan­ger­ous work­loads and exac­er­bat­ed the break­down in aged care with:

  • Basic care not being deliv­ered includ­ing missed meals, cloth­ing changes, bathing and wound care
  • Missed care episodes with res­i­dents forced to stay in their rooms
  • A deplet­ed work­force with aged care nurs­es being phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly exhaust­ed and burnt-out
  • Aged care res­i­dents hav­ing an unac­cept­ably high rate of death from COVID with poor vac­ci­na­tion roll­out and RAT access.

This is while the Min­is­ters respon­si­ble for the sec­tor have, aston­ish­ing­ly, deflect­ed the respon­si­bil­i­ty for their Government’s fail­ures onto aged care res­i­dents them­selves with their claims that many res­i­dents are pal­lia­tive or have under­ly­ing health con­di­tions. These are the very rea­sons why peo­ple move into nurs­ing homes and why they are at greater risk from COVID and there­fore require increased protections. 

But yet again, they’ve been aban­doned by the Mor­ri­son Government:

  • As with the ear­li­er vac­ci­na­tion roll out, the Gov­ern­ment has failed to deliv­er boost­er vac­ci­na­tions to all aged care res­i­dents and staff effectively; 
  • Despite the Gov­ern­ment promis­ing to roll-out RATs to nurs­ing homes last August, many front­line staff still can’t access them, or even worse, have been forced to source and pay for their own RATs;
  • Whilst acknowl­edg­ing the poor pay of aged care work­ers, the Government’s cash pay­ments are not suf­fi­cient to retain or recruit nurs­es to the indus­try, when what’s need­ed are per­ma­nent wage increases;
  • The Gov­ern­ment has dragged its feet on the intro­duc­tion of man­dat­ed safe, min­i­mum lev­el of staffing in aged care, one of the Roy­al Commission’s most cru­cial Recommendations.

The sit­u­a­tion is unac­cept­able and demon­strates once again that this Gov­ern­ment nei­ther under­stands aged care nor cares for those liv­ing and work­ing in the system. 

Our aged care work­ers, res­i­dents and their fam­i­lies, deserve so much bet­ter; they deserve dig­ni­ty and respect.

As we head to the fed­er­al elec­tion, the Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment must do so much more if we are to have any real hope of fix­ing the cri­sis in aged care.

As a start, the peak nurs­ing organ­i­sa­tions rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing actions:

  1. A two week boost­er blitz in nurs­ing homes across the coun­try, using the offers of state ser­vices, the deploy­ment of army health per­son­nel and the use of nurse prac­ti­tion­ers and oth­er nurse vac­ci­na­tors to achieve max­i­mum boost­er cov­er­age, includ­ing imme­di­ate­ly remov­ing MBS restric­tions that dis­al­low pri­vate­ly prac­tis­ing nurse prac­ti­tion­ers from using their item num­bers to pro­vide COVID-19 vaccinations.
  2. As a stop­gap mea­sure, enable fam­i­ly and car­ers to vis­it their elder­ly to pro­vide much-need­ed sup­ple­men­tal social and emo­tion­al sup­port, as well as assis­tance with feed­ing, mobil­is­ing and diver­sion­al ther­a­py. This as a humane mea­sure, but also as a much need­ed sup­ple­ment to the staff short­ages in aged care.
  3. Pro­vide fund­ing for sup­ple­men­tal staff from agency and com­mu­ni­ty care that is addi­tion­al to cur­rent funding.
  4. In the longer term, pro­vide appro­pri­ate staffing ratios and fund­ing in accor­dance with the Roy­al Com­mis­sion findings.

Media enquiries
Denise Wilt­shire
Ph: (07) 4047 6400
E: denise@​crana.​org.​au