A new website dedicated to highlighting the issue of under-staffing in Australian aged care is providing an outlet for frustrated staff who have grown tired of inaction regarding aged care’s most prominent issue.
In only two months, the Aged Care Watch website has received over 2,000 anonymous complaints from staff members who have gone online to name and shame providers for inadequate staffing levels.
Typical scenarios can include residents being left soiled for extended periods of time, residents missing out on planned activities, staff missing breaks, inadequate care, and high stress for both staff and residents.
The Aged Care Watch website was launched by the United Workers Union (UWU), which hopes that highlighting the harrowing results of understaffing will prompt an increase of funding to the sector.
United Workers Union Aged Care Director, Carolyn Smith, is hopeful that increased funding will then translate into more care time for aged care residents.
“Aged care workers are telling the public about the terrible conditions they face on a daily basis as they campaign to change aged care – and politicians need to take notice.”
Ms Smith continued, “Understaffing is an issue that has been known about for decades, it’s time that the sector received the financial support that it needs to ensure that homes are supported with enough staff to deliver quality care.”
While the announcement of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was both vindication and acknowledgment to the problems being voiced by aged care staff, the lack of noticeable improvements since the final report was handed down has added to frustrations.
Aged care data and process improvement specialists CarePage have spent the last seven years helping aged care providers turn resident and staff feedback into improved care outcomes.
Former nurse, and CarePage CEO and founder, Lauren Todorovic, revealed that she understands the frustrations of staff and believes that naming and shaming may be a result of not feeling heard.
“Typically, aged care workers won’t go to the Quality Commission to report things like being short-staffed, because their primary focus is supporting consumers. So then, the only place outside of the home that they can turn to for support is possibly their union,” said Ms Todorovic.
She added, “There are fundamental flaws with the aged care complaint system, which lead to desperate measures like what we are seeing on this website. However, I don’t think that going online and attacking providers is necessarily going to change anything beyond the superficial level.”
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) is cited as the appropriate channel for aged care staff complaints, but a lack of tangible results has many staff members and aged care advocates convinced that the ACQSC is reluctant to get their hands dirty and often favours providers.
This inability to affect change was highlighted in the royal commission’s executive summary, which bemoaned the regulator’s “light-touch approach to regulation,” saying that its approach was neither strong nor effective.
Would money buy transparency?
When asked about what it would actually take to see significant improvements made to aged care staffing, the most common response from providers and lobby groups is more money.
Although news of the government’s $18 billion budget response to the aged care royal commission was welcomed by the sector, the five-year timeline is a growing point of frustration for staff and residents who are in dire need of help now.
LASA CEO, Sean Rooney, believes that “getting funding right is fundamental to getting workforce and care right,” but Australians should not be forced to wait longer to see results.
“Recruiting the staff the sector needs requires [the] government to agree to provide the funding to employ more staff, with more training and better pay, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in its final report,” Mr Rooney shared with HelloCare.
“This cannot be left until after the implementation of a new independent pricing methodology. It’s something that needs to be fixed right now through [the] government implementing the Royal Commission recommendations on indexation and agreeing to fund the outcome of the Work Value Cases currently before the Fair Work Commission.”
United Workers Union Aged Care Director, Carolyn Smith, echoed Mr Rooney’s calls for immediate funding, before admitting that providers should be forced to show how funding is being used.
“The aged care sector needs far more transparency, and sunlight is the greatest disinfectant. [LASA] are always going to ask for more money, but are they willing for people to see how it is being used?”
The government’s ‘5 pillars over 5 years’ plan will require providers to have enough staff to provide each of their residents with an average of 200 care minutes per day by 2023.
Data has quickly become a hot commodity in the aged care space, and CarePage CEO, Lauren Todorovic, says “Some providers are actually really good at ensuring that they have the right amount of staff and we see that in our data. There are providers who are consistently getting high scores for their staff presence.”
“Obviously, having no acceptable range, or guide around staffing ratios has been a problem, and as a result we see some providers cross the line of what in reality is acceptable to provide quality of care. When people are sitting in bed all day because there’s not enough staff to get them up – that’s no quality of life,” said Ms Todorovic.
Ms Todorovic added, “I know that aged care workers are frustrated, but I worry that naming and shaming may discourage providers from seeking out feedback from their staff and residents. Improvement requires transparency within the home.”
What do you think about the new website Aged Care Watch, allowing frustrated workers to name and shame providers over inadequate staffing levels? Share your thoughts below.
Disclosure: Please note that CarePage is a related party to HelloCare. And that whilst independent, both companies operate as separate companies we thought it was important for you to know.