“Somebody speak up for the elderly”: Nurses protest handling of aged care

Nurses protest against govt

Despite numerous inquiries, including a Royal Commission and various investigations of infection control and COVID-19 management in aged care, the sector is struggling to cope with Omicron, which is placing a heavy burden on an already-vulnerable workforce.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) federal secretary, Annie Butler, spoke at the rally, saying the government is “abandoning” aged care workers and residents, and nurses are “fed up”, according to a report in The Guardian.

“Our aged care workers and nurses are holding the system together as best they can but they have got virtually nothing left. 

“This is a crisis that should never have been allowed to happen and we are saying directly, Mr [Prime Minister Scott] Morrison, you let this happen.”

Ms Butler said the government has “ignored” the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Nurses asked the government for Defence Force support a month ago, but the government only announced their assistance will be forthcoming on Monday, she said.

“In that time, 500-plus people have died,” Ms Butler added.

Aged care staff from all over the country have shared with The Guardian their stories, including residents calling for help and lying in their own faeces and urine, and gardeners and maintenance staff being required to do laundry and help feed residents.

One aged care manager told The Guardian she “cried” after the federal government delivered gloves and hand sanitiser instead of the PPE her home needed.

“During our recent outbreak I requested isolation gowns and N95 masks from the national stockpile,” she said. 

The manager has struggled to get PPE or surge workforce from the government, and has had difficulties getting clinical waste collected.

“We asked weeks ago for extra bins, but they still have not been delivered,” she told The Guardian.

Staff are not being recognised for their heroic efforts to provide care, despite woeful staff shortages, she said.

“We ask for agency staff on a daily basis, but there are very, very few available,” she continued. 

“We are doing everything possible to make sure we have enough appropriately trained staff. There simply aren’t any more out there.”

Instead of receiving much-needed government support, aged care homes are being audited by the regulator and treated punitively, she told The Guardian.

“It’s not the physical exhaustion that will get me. It is the punitive approach of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. It’s the relentless paperwork I fill in for staff and PPE I don’t get. I honestly don’t know if I can do this for much longer. I don’t even know if I want to stay in nursing,” the aged care manager shared.

Another aged care manager told The Guardian she had resorted to buying and hoarding PPE because she could not access federal government supplies. When she did receive gowns, it was too late – the home had already suffered a wave of Omicron cases – leaving her with 20,000 surplus gowns.

Another manager said he had to source rapid antigen tests and PPE from overseas because he couldn’t access any in Australia.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, told The Guardian the government has delivered more than 17 million face masks, 6 million gowns, 20 million gloves, 4 million goggles and face shields, and 4 million rapid antigen tests since Omicron began to spread in the community.

Sometimes orders had to be split in order to ensure some supply, he said.

An aged care nurse who has worked in the same home for 18 years and attended Tuesday’s protest told The Guardian she works night shift and cares for 40 residents on her own.

“Our residents are getting sub-standard care, you can not physically look after 40 people by yourself,” she said. 

“Mr Morrison, do I go to Mr Smith who is in pain, or Mrs Jones who is on the floor, or John who has got behaviour problems and is intruding into other peoples rooms?” she asked.

“I have floor alarms going and buzzers going. What would you like me to do?

“Somebody – speak up for the elderly.”

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  1. Shame on Australia for neglecting the elderly and infirmed after a lifetime of graft for their families and country.

    Support the aged niw.

  2. The Royal Commission was a joke. Have they listened to anything. I know of a facility that failed all but one of the outcomes and they were still given accreditation. What is one to make of that

  3. In amongst all of the articles I have read about the current crisis, it seems to me that there has been little recognition that the industry itself has contributed to the problems that exist. There are multiple aged care providers, in New South Wales, that have over the last ten years become focused upon, and driven by money, not care. Those very organisations have gone from being providers of reasonable quality care to being awful, and in fact being sanctioned. Their failure to have operationally, and clinically focused executive staff has lead to a demonstrable decrease in the quality of care provided. This has then flowed on to decreased occupancy, and obviously decreased financial performance, which then spirals into cost cutting measures which further impact upon care. The end point is the crisis we see now playing out. An increase in funding, be it from government or the users, will not of itself resolve the crisis. For some providers it will just go to their bottom line.

  4. While minimum staff levels are not mandated ( apart from Victoria ) & the handing over to Private sector ( to make money ) this appalling situation will continue. I spent 6 1/2 years caring for elderly mother in a privately run nursing home. I had to be there 4-7 days a week to to provide adequate care ( as a Reg Nurse ) I knew what was missing. I knew the owner when short staffed never called Agency staff particularly on weekends as he would not pay agency rates. I wrote a submission with much detail, dates etc to no avail as the Royal Commission, once again a talk feast of well qualified & experienced people offering ways to change the system . . .it is obvious & as been for years come to nothing. Aged Care has needed much over the years that has been ignored & COVID only showed how bad it really is.

  5. We need more carers, support workers and nurses in aged care asap but the government doesn’t seem to care,

    No great incentives, wage increases etc.

    It’s concerning for the aging population, sorry not sorry Scomo the government should of seen this coming along time ago,

    Maybe with the reforms with CHSP and Home care packages next June/July 2023 something will begin to happen?

    The elderly and their families need to get out and protest! That’s the reality!!

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