Apr 27, 2020

Scott Morrison Should Be Thanking Aged Care Providers, Not Threatening Them

 

Dear Mr. Morrison,

Until today I have supported you, praised your leadership, and prayed for you. 

When listening to your National Cabinet address last week, I think you became a little confused when discussing aged care, as you stated that your intentions of enforcing restrictions on aged care facilities were not to ‘shut people off and lock them away in their rooms’.

 Is this what you think is happening? Do you honestly believe providers are isolating elderly people as a matter of ‘convenience’?

Let me tell you a little about what the past month has looked like in my aged care facility.

We have worked long hours, from the top down. Our CEO, Executive Director, and Operations Manager have been responsive to phone calls, emails, and zoom meetings at any time day or night.

We have been provided with all resources requested; PPE, staffing, and technology. We have been supported to ‘do whatever it takes’ to keep our residents safe. 

We’ve covered the costs of all of the additional resources with nothing offered by your government to an industry that is already financially unsustainable.

Over the course of a few days, we were required to review our policies, develop new policies, and implement them at a moment’s notice, all whilst the directives and advice were changing.

We’ve been abused by families who don’t understand why we need to limit access to our facility, to protect their loved one. 

We’ve changed our working hours to fit in with skype calls, zoom meetings, and facetime so that families can communicate with each other. 

We’ve got extra staff working to ensure nobody feels isolated. Puzzles, quizzes, happy hour, dancing, singing, bingo, art classes, and laughter are all taking place in our facility, albeit a little differently. 

We’re spending time writing letters with our residents, to the sweet children at my daughter’s school who sent cards.

We’re having socially distant birthday parties- nobody turns 100 without a party! 

We’re holding their hands as they tell us they miss their children and grandchildren. We’re setting their hair because they can’t go to the hairdresser. We’re sitting with them for every meal because they can’t eat in the dining room in groups. 

We’re popping down to the supermarket to pick up their essentials… you know the ones… blue vein cheese, crackers, and brandy.

Whilst doing all of this, we’ve been scared.

We’ve been scared by the possibility of one positive test result. 

We’ve been scared that we’ll take the illness home to our families. We’ve been scared by the lack of transparency and direction given to providers by your government. We’ve been terrified of the word ‘outbreak’.

However, we’ve continued to come to work. 

We’ve continued to put ourselves at risk, not because we’re ‘essential’ but because we care.

We don’t work in this industry because it’s glamorous or pays brilliantly, we do it because we care. We genuinely care, and we’re bloody good at what we do.

Look at what we’ve achieved as an industry compared to the lives lost in facilities all over the world.

So, Mr. Morrison, I believe what you meant to say was:

“Thank you to the aged care providers;
Thank you to the lifestyle teams;
Thank you to the cleaners;
Thank you to the laundry staff;
Thank you to the chefs and kitchen assistants;
Thank you to the admin staff;
Thank you to the maintenance officers;
Thank you to the carers; and
Thank you to the nurses.

Thank you for keeping the vulnerable people in your facilities safe. 

Thank you for your professionalism and thank you for loving them.”

Photo supplied by Victoria By The Park.

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  1. Thank you & well done to aged care workers. Appreciating your work & care at this difficult time!.🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷💖💖💖

  2. Very true the resident aren’t locked in they rooms we have staff doing activity with them 7 days a week
    I’m proud to be working in aged care facility with great staff members
    Thank you to everyone who also works in the aged care ❤️❤️

  3. This is fabulous, so true. I worked as a Registered Nurse in Aged Care for 41 years and I am so disgusted by the way workers in aged care are being treated.
    I cannot understand the PMs comment that it’s ok to let visitors in but the NSW Premier said she wouldn’t go and visit her parents as she would put them at risk.
    Aged Care nurses are the best at infection control, hand washing etc as it is instilled in the over and over again.
    What do families want, people to answer the phone or look after their relatives. I know how much the care nurses work their butts off for the people in their care going that extra bit always for them.
    In a lot of cases the care staff are better to the residents than their own families.
    Keep up the incredible work you do and know that you are all so appreciated.

  4. Thank you for articulating the feelings of every single person in the aged care industry. The last 6 weeks have been very challenging and all staff should feel a great sense of pride. The vast majority of residents have been kept safe and protected as have the staff. The staff are to be commended for putting their residents’ needs before themselves. The results simply show that the lockdown on visitors has been the right thing to do – the minimal spread and death in aged care throughout the country validates the difficult decision to do so. Many families have applauded and shown immense gratitude for keeping their loved ones safe. So think again Mr Morrison.

  5. The PM needs to stop saying residents are locked in their rooms! At my Mum and Dads Aged Care home life goes on as normal. Activities, exercises special days, footy Saturdays and even a staff member doubling as a hairdresser! We have had access by window, Zoom and FaceTime, all organised by staff.
    I can’t thank the staff enough for all they are doing!

  6. Very well said, I thank all the workers from the the Management to the Carers to the cleaners for keeping our relatives, friends & love ones safe. You are all doing your very best at this testing time, love to you & stay safe.

  7. I appreciate these are challenging times for all involved. This article however didn’t demonstrate a consideration of the resident’s perspective – this is what is lost in the debate.

  8. For once I find myself in sympathy with providers whose overall performance and acceptance of abysmal staffing levels and other free market ideas has resulted in horrendous care as exposed by the Royal Commission. I am less than impressed with their attempt to use our low incidence of nursing home infections to negate the reporting of their failures when it is primarily the low incidence of community infections and our effective social isolation policies that have prevented infection reaching nursing homes. I do appreciate that many dedicated staff have responded well. It is not staff but the system that is problematic.

    That said, this was Scomo at his most Trumpian making off the cuff policy in complex environments from his office and around his board room table.

    What this problem really shows is that the use of free market policies in caring contexts leads to the trading of care as a commodified product to those who cannot assess their worth and leaves the community, who hold the ultimate responsibility for seeing that their members are properly cared for, out in the cold. It has also distanced itself from health care in a fantasy world where aged care is not a disease and skilled health care and trained nurses are not required.

    What is missing, as is glaringly apparent, is any effective integration with health care and with local communities resulting in alienation and distrust. These decisions should be made in consultation with the nearest infectious disease experts and with local community whose participation ensures that the community owns the decisions and supports them. The care provided should be mentored and supported by teams of local hospital experts in infection control. Each instance is in a different facility with different risks in the community. There can be no one size fits all prescription.

    It is the role of government to build local community capacity using structures that bring people together and this should have been done years ago. Free market policies that depend on competition rather than cooperation have pulled us apart and prevented us from working together for the common good.

    It is interesting that, in spite of Trump, the US state of Maryland had already set in place a more regionalised system where close relationships had already been established and where teams of medical staff from local hospitals were already visiting and supporting local nursing homes. The US pandemic exploded because of Trumpian inaction. Over 700 have died in nursing homes.

    But in Maryland the teams of experts were already in place and soon in nursing homes mobilising skills and scarce resources prioritising care of these vulnerable people. They started testing as many as they could. They trained and built capacity within the nursing homes. I am not aware of a similar community backlash to that in Australia and far more isolation would have been required in Maryland.

    This is what is missing and what is required in Australia.

  9. I have worked in aged care as an AIN now for nearly 20 years. My facility has gone above and beyond being responsible for the well-being of residents and staff during this Coronavirus pandemic. Temperature checks also sign in for all staff. Visitation rights regarding a family member seeing their family with a 4 metre distance under a gazebo talking to their loved ones through a window. Telephone calls and Skype available to all our residents. Residents missing their families so much, with us staff doing the best we can. Just to be there, listen to them and hug them, is a great reward for all staff.

  10. As a facility manager you should be well aware that not all facilities are equal and some have consistent history of letting residents down. I am a nurse in aged care, I also have my mother in a facility. For facilities that have a bad track record I am terrified for their residents, while these facilities are in lock down. With proper social distancing and restrictive visiting, these residents would be safer. Covid-19 is more likely to be introduced by staff.

    1. Could be true that staff would be the most likely spreaders. But I do believe that opening up facilities to visitors are a close call as well! They stay longer than half an hour. And ticking the boxes to say they have no symptoms and a temp check is actually no guarantee. I doubt they would admit they may have been the carrier if tested later if the virus broke out. Very easy to blame staff. The other problem we have in aged care is the no of staff that are hired to just “pick up shifts” as these people are the most dangerous to carry a virus as they actually have other jobs outside facilities to pay their Bill’s, so if they work in other care jobs (secretly) what do you do?So what is the answer? Look after the older more experienced staff and put on more full-time staff and stop this “casualisation” of work in the Aged Care business!! At least then you would have regular staff and not ones that go between jobs spreading all types of viruses like diarrhea and flu to name just a few. And instead of this rediculous waste of taxpayers money with the retaining money due in June? Give aged care staff a reason to stay put in their careers by upping their rate of pay. Nobody ever leaves a job that looks after their staff and pays them well. Everyone should jump on board for retaining good experienced staff by advocating more full-time work and better hourly rates!!

  11. I agree with Rhonda. I understand the complete lock-down they insituted in the first instance, in the Northern Territory. However it was soon evident that we had no community transfer. Yet the facillities continued their complete closure the facilities.Some facillities took far too long to institue viewing and other ways to support interaction with families. I am with a community organisation and we had many complaints from distressed families. In particular one person was extremely distressed. Married for 50 years, never been appart for more than a couple of days, their partner only able to communicate with their Chinese dialect and suffering advance dementia. Normally the spouse assisted with personal hygiene and feeding, commforting by hand-holding and quiet talk. Sadly, when access was finaly granted because of combined efforts by national organisations, such as Dementia Astralia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network and Council on the Ageing, it was too late – no recognition of their spouses presence. Precious time lost never to be regained.

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