Oct 23, 2020

Why are aged care workers paying for their own first-aid training?

A couple of weeks ago, the team at HelloCare noticed this statement from the Department of Health. “The Department of Health considers the provision of first-aid training to direct care staff a legitimate business expense for aged care providers.”

The statement stood out for us because we knew many of our readers, who are mainly aged care workers, pay for their own first-aid training.

If first-aid training is a “legitimate business expense”, then surely aged care providers should be paying for it, right?

Well, as it appears not necessarily.

Two-thirds pay for their own first-aid training

We posed the question in a poll, to the members of our Aged Care Workers Support Group, ‘Do you have to pay for your own first-aid training or does your employer cover the costs?’

Sure enough, two-thirds of those who responded to our small survey (107 of 161 respondents) said they paid for their own first-aid training.

Staff must be able to deliver first-aid “at all times”: The Department of Health

Next, we put some questions to the Department of Health. In their responses, the Department stressed the importance of first-aid skills. 

“Residential aged care services are expected to have a staff member available at all times who can deliver first aid,” they said.

“The workforce must be competent and have the qualifications and knowledge to effectively perform their roles, including the delivery of first aid to consumers,” they also said.

Yet there is not actually a requirement for aged care staff to have first-aid training. The standards are vague on the topic. Standard 7 requires simply that ‘the workforce is competent and members of the workforce have the qualification and knowledge to effectively perform their roles’.

There is no mention of first-aid training in the Aged Care Quality Standards at all.

Where is the money going?

Similarly, the Department doesn’t require that providers use any Commonwealth funding – some $27 billion – for first-aid training.

“Aged care providers may use their government grant funding and subsidies to provide training to their staff, including first aid training,” the Department told HelloCare (our emphasis).

So, despite everyone agreeing that first-aid skills are important, the standards don’t require staff to have the training and sometimes no one other than the workers themselves are prepared to pay for it.

Coroner recommended first-aid training be compulsory

In 2016, a tragic accident occurred that demonstrated the importance of aged care staff having first-aid training.

A personal care worker was left alone for half an hour with a resident, John Reimers, when he fell from his wheelchair. With no knowledge of first aid, the personal care worker was unable to help, and Mr Reimer died. 

The coroner investigating the case made the point that first-aid training was compulsory for disability workers, but not aged care workers. She recommended first-aid and CPR training be made compulsory for all aged care workers. Yet nothing has changed.

Raise it with your boss – really?

The Department has suggested “carers should raise issues with their employer / aged care provider” if they are concerned about having to pay for their own first-aid training.

Is this really feasible? 

What is the power differential between an aged care member of staff and a representative of the provider, often a large organisation? 

Aged care workers are often employed in insecure roles, and may fear for their job if they speak up. Will they really rock the boat? No. Most will just pay for the training simply as a reflection of their good nature.

Providers should pay – and it should be compulsory

All the talk in the world about the importance of first-aid is not going to give staff the skills. The price we pay for failing to make first-aid training compulsory is that older people living in residential aged care can die.

Yesterday, the royal commission revealed that the 1997 inception of the Aged Care Act was the point the government began putting the cost of services ahead of the quality of care being delivered. It’s time for that focus to be reversed.

Insisting that aged care providers pay for all their staff to have first-aid training would be a good place to start.

Image: Silvia Jansen.

 

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  1. I am aware that some people working at an aged care facility were informed by memo/posted on a notice board; that first aid training was not necessary and would not be supported. “quote” it was against legislation for them to render assistance to residents. Memo written by some uninformed member of staff.
    It has also been stated that “defibrillators” are not necessary at aged care facilities.

  2. During a post arrest debrief I noted staff were not aware of what a bag & mask, airviva was. I was told by management “aged care is a one way door, we do not offer resuscitation, we call an ambulance and put on oxygen” “it costs too much to train staff and they do not stay long enough for it to be of benefit”. One of the many reasons I resigned.

  3. As an in home care provided – most of our staff are casual and also work for other providers – should the cost them be split between providers?

  4. Litigation is the problem here. If an AIN moves or unknowingly hurts a resident they can be in serious trouble. We can stop bleeding with towels and wait for a better paid Registered Nurse to respond but don’t think AINs being qualified for First Aid should put themselves at risk of litigation. Forget that!

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