Gloves rationed in aged care facility

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?

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  1. PPEs, in this enlightened age, include disposable gloves. They are not only necessary, but should/must be mandatory. Discarded after each use to prevent cross infections. Management must surely realise, the health and safety of their employees is financially beneficial, as well as morally responsible.
    Facial (especially eye) protection should also be considered in a forward thinking age care facility.
    The recent deaths in AC Facilities, during flu season, is a subtle hint of staff/ patient cross infection.
    Subtle as a sledge hammer.

  2. Fantastic example of scaremongering. Headline of ” Anonymous allegation of disgruntled employee distresses residents and public confidence in Aged Care” would be more accurate.

    1. I am experiencing the same issue at the moment and have witnessed inadequate supply of gloves in more than one facility.

  3. My god! What is going on in Aged Care? Gloves are the first and foremost article of hygiene safety that even a mother with a newborn would consider! This is shocking! I have in past years experienced this as well. I remember staff having to buy gloves out of their own pockets when the facility was absolutely full to the brim! At the moment we are about 14 residents short and and staff have had their hours cut and some their permanent shifts cut. The cleaners now work 4 hours a day and have been for 12 months and I often find no soap in the soap dispensers! We were told to stop complaining as they are so busy!! They don’t even clean around or in toilet bowls. So what is their purpose anyway. So much for hygiene! Could someone please explain to us readers what the story is with Aged Care and where the government’s subsidies go? Seems the more the government subsidies businesses (and not just Aged Care) the more corruption seems to take hold. I keep hearing about management getting a “bonus” for saving money at the end of the year. Does anyone know anything about this? I need someone to explain why Aged Care is always “broke” when all these residents pay so much for so little care spent on them.

    1. If they didnt get a bonus for the job they are already well paid for, residents would get a better deal.

  4. I am shocked to hear of this. This story is remarkably similar – almost word for word – to my own experience 20 years ago. i was an RN in an RACF where management apparently valued budgetary considerations over infection control and safety and severely restricted disposable gloves. We, too, bought gloves at our own expense. Universal Precautions were well and truly the standard at that time and were being practised in hospital, community nursing and hopefully most RACFs elsewhere.

  5. We can not be surprised when private sector aged care is involved. Profit will always lead the way over everything. Unfortunately this is the reality of profit based system.

  6. Take aged care off money making businesses and give them back to non profit organisations. Stop the ghouls in their tracks. Making a profit from the old, sick and infirm is diabolical.

  7. Facility I worked in: no gloves, no alcohol wash, 2 wash stations over 120 resident rooms. ” We do not want this to be like a hospital, it is their home”. Rationing continence products and encouraging residents to soil in continence wear, was not a home, was a disgrace. I resigned when I was unable to change it for the better.

  8. I’ve worked in aged care for the past 10 years and have become frustrated with the negativity of disgruntle or former staff. I agree with John’s comment about scaremongering. I have no doubt some providers actually do the wrong thing however I do not believe its systemic

    The one question I put forward to all of the people who’ve made a comment regarding the rationalising of gloves is, what did you seriously do about it? Not one of you have made comments of reporting your concerns to the Commonwealth or Quality Agency.

    We can all find the negatives or the problems, I become extremely frustrated when I don’t see your actions to correct or make a stance. Why? Adrian

  9. Well Adrian. You make me speechless. There are alot of staff working in aged care across not only Australia but across the world with the same issues over and over again. Are we all idiots? Or are you lucky enough to work for a great establishment that does the right thing for residents and staff alike? I will tell you a fact. Most staff are workers from overseas and donot like to rock the boat and therefore will not make official complaints including RNs who are mostly Visa card holders. They are very loyal to their place of employment until they are free to leave and move on to better places of work and conditions. Almost sounds like the 70’s. Only a few staff have joined a union which leaves the rest of us almost helpless to change anything. Lots of staff leave and are leaving as it is too hard to get management to change their somewhat toxic ideologies and stagnant culture in the Aged Care sector. The only way to fix the issue with alot of these places is to re- educate management and bring in better ratios of staff to deal with the workload some places (obviously not your place of employment) have to contend with.

  10. My agency does not supply gloves. Because they are too scungy. I pay $1,500 a day to stay where I am and have to supply my own gloves. Because my agency are too cheap.

  11. Hi there, I was told today as I didn’t go to a work meeting last week, that all A.I.N’s from now on are not to wear gloves when showering/ bathing/ bed bath residents. I was wild and pissed off as this may result in infections between staff and residents. Is this allowed? the CEO is new to the aged care but has aged care experience and management experience. I just don’t understand as to how with such experience in aged care the CEO can do this. Cut down on gloves because its costing the facility money, what a load of Bull..


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