Feb 19, 2020

Queensland nurses demand end to Blue Care job cuts

Nurses and midwives are calling on Blue Care to stop staff cuts at their 100-plus private aged care facilities state-wide.

Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Assistant Secretary Sandra Eales will visit Blue Care headquarters in the Brisbane CBD to call for an immediate job cut guarantee – and to deliver a near-4000-strong petition calling for an end to Blue Care’s secret cuts.

Ms Eales said Blue Care was the state’s largest aged care provider – yet continually attempted to slash nurse and carer numbers.

She said Blue Care, part of UnitingCare Queensland, had a history of making large and potentially life-threatening cuts without informing residents or their families. This despite the fact Blue Care and other private Australian aged care providers have received more than $66 billion federal taxpayer dollars from the federal government in the last five years. They do not publicly have to report how a cent was spent.

“Blue Care’s ongoing attempts to secretly cut already dangerously low staff numbers is a form of elder neglect,’’ Ms Eales said.

“Blue Care need to be called out on this. Today I am visiting Blue Care and UnitingCare Queensland headquarters to hand deliver a QNMU petition signed by almost 4000 nurses, aged care staff and community members.

“Queenslanders today call for an urgent and immediate guarantee Blue Care will not attempt to cut more aged care staff.’’

She said Blue Care recently tried to cut five Personal Carers (PCs) or Assistants in Nursing (AiNs) and one Registered Nurse (RN) from their Toowoomba Aged Care Facility. This change would have left one RN responsible for providing care to more than 100 residents.

Cuts were also flagged for Kenmore and Hamilton Meriwee facilities – however the QNMU and members went public with the proposed cuts and Blue Care backed down in Toowoomba and Kenmore. The QNMU would like to thank the media for their coverage of the issue which has helped stop cuts and protect elderly Queenslanders.

The QNMU was recently advised Blue Care had cut staff hours at the Hamilton Meriwee Aged Care Facility. It’s feared Blue Care will continue to attempt to cut hours and staff numbers state- wide.

Sadly, in Australia there are no federal laws that state even one Registered Nurse (RN) must be on site at a private aged care facility at any given time. Therefore, it’s not illegal to leave elderly residents, including those with high care needs, without an RN overnight or during the day.

In addition, Blue Care have transferred the administration of complex and dangerous medications from nurses to Personal Carers – who simply lack the training and knowledge to undertake this role safely.

“The QNMU and our members have repeatedly stepped in to ensure residents and the community know what Blue Care is silently planning,’’ Ms Eales said.

“Despite the fact some residents are paying a bond of up to $500,000 for a bed, and up to $750 a fortnight for care, there is no legal requirement an aged care provider must tell residents or their loved ones about cuts or medication changes.

“These changes could cause unnecessary pain, suffering or premature death however they are being kept secret.

“The Morrison Government should be held to account for repeatedly refusing to introduce safe staffing laws to protect tens of thousands of elderly Australians in private aged care facilities nation-wide.’’

Blue Care have also refused to agree to a pay increase for staff who earn less than the majority of other Queensland nurses. Blue Care’s ongoing failure to increase wages to meet the rising costs of living, in addition to dangerously low staff numbers and unsafe workloads, could force experienced staff to seek work elsewhere.

Blue Care are the state’s largest aged care providers with more than 120 facilities between Cairns, Cloncurry and Coolangatta. They were once regarded as providers of quality care.

Image: shapecharge, iStock. Model posed. Stock image.

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