The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard from 21-year-old assistant in nursing, Lavina Luboya, on Friday.
The youngest witness at the royal commission to date, Ms Luboya was born in Congo and moved to Australia in 2007. She works two shifts every day at two different aged care facilities in Western Australia – one facility in the morning and another in the afternoon. She is a casual in one facility and permanent part-time in another.
Ms Luboya was studying biomedical science at university but decided to leave to work in aged care. “I always wanted to help people,” she told the commission.
Ms Luboya described her day-to-day duties to the commission, and explained how shifts are rostered. She said both facilities where she works are often short staffed which can compromise safety.
“When I work in the morning shift I feel like there’s never enough time,” she told the commission.
“If someone calls in sick the registered nurse has to try to get someone else to replace them but if they can’t find someone we just have to work short-staffed.”
“When we work short staffed, consideration about safety goes in the bin. Even though management are aware that we are short, it feels like they expect for us to make miracles and safety is not considered.
“It is really hard working short-staffed in high care as a lot of people,” Ms Luboya told the commission, explaining that many residents are “two-assist”, or need two people to help them.
Ms Luboya said the facilities don’t have enough equipment, or the equipment they do have is faulty.
“At the first facility, we only have one hoist that can raise all the residents. We have to run back and forth with the one weight hoist across the facility,” she said. “Many of the hoists are old.”
Ms Luboya said training usually has to be done during work hours, and is often interrupted by residents’ calls for assistance. A training manual contains “unrealistic” help, she said.
But Ms Luboya told the commission she enjoys working in aged care and finds it satisfying.
“Aged care is the end for a lot of residents,” Ms Luboya told the commission. “Despite that, I know that I can make a difference.
“A lot of the residents don’t have family and we’re their only families. I gain satisfaction in my job from seeing the residents smile and knowing that I made a difference.”
Despite liking the work, Ms Luboya said she is considering leaving the industry.
“I’m considering other options because I’m always exhausted after my shifts.
“My back and my shoulder are always sore and I worry that if I injure my back while I am young, I won’t be able to get a job after that.”
The Department of Health could be seen to not be adequately supporting reform of the aged care workforce, the royal commission heard on Friday.
Issuing a formal response to the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce’s recommendations could raise topics that might embarrass the government, the royal commission heard.
Counsel assisting the royal commission, Peter Rozen QC, asked Glenys Beauchamp, Secretary of the Department of Health, about a briefing note to Ministers about responding to Professor John Pollaers’ report on the taskforce’s recommendations.
“Release of a formal response to the strategy would carry several risks for government,” the document states.
The document then detailed the risks, including two key points.
“One of the risks to government would be that it would invite renewed criticism of the absence of similar responses to other aged care review reports,” the document notes, giving the Legislated Review of Aged Care and the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes as examples.
“A further risk for government is that a formal government response will invite public statements by key stakeholder groups drawing renewed attention to sensitive matters such as staff ratios, aged care funding, access to health services for older Australians and service quality.”
Ms Beauchamp said “she would not have couched it in those terms”, but agreed a formal response from government was not required.
Mr Rozen suggested responding to Mr Pollaers report could be “embarrassing” for the government, but Ms Beauchamp said it was more correct to say that responding might be “inviting criticism”.
Mr Rozen asked if the government was “embracing” the reforms proposed in the workforce report, but Ms Beachamp said it wasn’t the department’s role to.
“Our role is to support implementation and delivery, and it wasn’t our place to embrace it or not,” she said.
Friday was the final day of the Melbourne hearings into staff issues for the royal commission. The next hearing will be in Mudgee, NSW, and will look at the issues associated with providing aged care services in regional and remote areas.