Sep 07, 2021

Website that calls out short-staffed aged care homes gives voice to frustrated workforce

Website for aged care complaints regarding short staffing

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.” 

Yelling into the void  

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?” 

Moving forward

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. 

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  1. How can the funding model be right when it was set inmotion prior to the royal commission recommendations?

    We have residents being admitted into RACF mainly due to discharge from hospital and unable to be cared at home. RACF is turning into a combination of Subacute hospital/Rehab/hostel setting. The funding needs to be available for staffing across this type of setting from complex care needs to usual care needs. Allied Health also plays a huge role for new admissions and post fall/medial episodes to ensure quality care and support the Nursing staff.

  2. Appalling. You mention lack of transparency of providers, what about lack of transparency and verification of claims on the site. Just another way to bash providers who are pulling their hair out trying to get people to work in aged care and getting nowhere. Every year I have worked in aged care its has been a struggle to have a full compliment of staff. We have tried everything, people just dont want to work!
    While we have had ongoing unfilled positions we have had less than 5 unfilled shifts over the last 6 years, because our staff step up to fill shifts so that the residents do not see any difference in care. We are here for the residents – recently we havent even been able to get casual and agency staff to backfill shifts. And while we are focussing on unfilled shifts – maybe someone should take a look at the hospital system – they look after acute care recipents and shifts go unfilled in that sector as a matter of course and noone seems to blink an eye.

    1. It has nothing to do with people not wanting to work. it is the pay and conditions that contribute to the lack of people wanting to stay in the industry or wanting to work in an industry that does not value their staff. if companies truly value the staff they pay for that in good wages and conditions! it is a no brainer. Tell me if a place of business that forbids their staff to sit on a lounge or chair in an aged care facility or face disciplinary outcomes if caught is fair. When you only have a staffroom of plastic chairs, and a couple of cheap tables to eat your bought in food on, lockers filling up the space when staffroom is full in the day time, staff told to leave when management want to hold meetings and no other place to go but your cars (if you have one) and no purpose built outdoor seating for staff. Well? Sounds like the staff are just no’s and not deserving of a little bit of comfort in their breaks to me! Until they get their priorities right and begin paying better and making conditions of their job more satisfying and safer to stop injuries and burnout I cannot see anyone desperate enough to work in aged care! As for the work itself well, it is often confronting and highly physical work that we all faced with on a daily basis and I feel sorry for any new staff beginning in this industry as they are often too inexperienced to be placed on their own on any Dementia unit but this has been going on for years. Some leave or are bullied out by nasty overworked staff that have nil patients for training yet another new staffer. Maybe there is a great Facility that pays really well and has lounges and soft lighting for their staff to relax in when on break but I doubt there are many that give a …..

      1. TOTALLY AGREE…nailed it on the head. Been working in aged care for 15 years employed long term and casually via agency at different RACF’s and they are all they same with private RACF being the worst. It’s either good management but bullying/lazy co-workers or great co-workers but bullied from management and treated like you are ‘just a worker’ in an oppressive work environment…..yet to find one where you can have both.

        Over heard a GM referring to certain aged care workers who contracted scabies from an outbreak within the facility as ‘vermin’ and ‘ didn’t realise they were running a brothel’. Absolutely disgraceful and these are the types of people in charge of our elderly!

        Another time overheard the person who is in charge of sales having a meeting with admin telling them that during tours with potential buyer that ‘staffing levels are not to be discussed if asked from consumers or their family’.

  3. Aged Care Watch is a great idea. Naming organisations is also great. No doubt there will be a legal response at some stage from a provider.

    The best situation would be the Regulator enforcing transparency. Where is the money going. This is public money, frequently going to private companies, or non transparent “not for profits”.

    If LASA opposes transparency, and the Regulator continues to find excuses for allowing inadequate care, the Government should regulate to remove one funded bed from Aged Care providers for each breach of standards.

    A real penalty may eventually produce better care.

  4. You need more than blame and shame. Get your union involved and walk out. Seek votes for fair working conditions from your colleagues, residents,and their families right across Australia. New Zealand in the same situation

  5. Shameful that again aged care is shown in a negative light. These older people have lived through wars, had multiple children, owned business and again where they live has been hit and criticized.

    Journalists and media need to stop rubbishing aged care. Where are the positive stories?

    1. There are always great positive stories to tell. Mainly from the hard working lowly paid work horses that look after the elderly and love the dear elderly they see every day. But nobody really cares about this industry but the workers on the floor that are there to pick up the slack every day and night to make sure mum, dad and Auntie are cared for.Most of the elderly have no idea how short staffed we are and how physically exhausted we are when we finally get to assist with their cares. The reason staff don’t walk off the floor in protest is that the paying elderly will not be cared for if we did this. The other reason is there are so many foreigners working in the industry who are not in a union hence, no walkout! Enterprise agreements signed by staff that don’t understand the consequences and the outcomes. The few Aussies left in an industry flooded with visa holders are left holding the bag for years to come. We do the best we can for your loved ones and a lot of us work double shifts. We try and hold a hand of your loved ones when we can. We have a laugh when we can. We hug them when they are confused. We reassure them. Most of all a lot us do care. Does anyone else?

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