LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Monday, 14 May 2018
I write in response to deeply disturbing comments from federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt. (14 May 2018)
To highlight dangerous understaffing in residential aged care, the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union (QNMU) recently conducted a secret, state-wide audit of 70 aged care facilities.
On Saturday, aged care nurses and other staff risked their jobs to tell QNMU staff how the lack of federal laws and resulting chronic understaffing is hurting Australia's elderly aged care residents.
Nurses who work for the QNMU travelled the state to visit privately-run aged care facilities, meet with their colleagues and report the findings.
The audit, believed to be the first if its kind, found 80 per cent of aged care facilities audited were dangerously understaffed. Nurses and aged care staff said elderly Queenslanders were malnourished, dehydrated, unmedicated and suffering unnecessary pain and premature death due to chronic understaffing in privately-run Australian aged care.
Chronic understaffing means the elderly are only being showered once a week, they are falling because there aren't enough staff to help them and they are not being properly fed or hydrated due to lack of staff.
Dangerous understaffing is common in many of Australia's 2400-plus aged care facilities. This understaffing occurs because there are no federal laws that state how a privately-run aged care facility should be run.
The Australian federal government does not require that even one Registered Nurse be on site 24 hours a day.
As a result, it is not uncommon for a single Registered Nurse to be left with up to 200 residents at a time.
Queensland and Australian nurses and carers are burning out as they desperately try to look after those in their care. In addition, they are bravely speaking out against Australia's aged care big business – which recently received $16.2 billion in tax payer dollars from the federal government and reported profits of more than $1 billion.
Mr Wyatt, shamed by nurses speaking out on this subject ahead of a federal election, has returned serve.
The Courier Mail, 13 May 2018, reads: And he plans to hold the directors of aged-care companies, as well as senior managers, accountable for elder abuse by nurses and carers.
"We will fuss over a baby and give it all the attention it needs,'' Mr Wyatt told The Courier-Mail yesterday. (Sunday, 13 May)
"But when somebody becomes frail in their twilight years then the level of care given in some cases diminishes because of the staff attitude that might prevail.''
This is a desperate and unfair slur.
It attacks Australian nurses. Australia's nurses and carers are not responsible for the systemic failures that allow chronic understaffing to occur in almost every Australian community. It is the federal government that allows aged care providers to legally operate without minimum staffing laws.
The lack of laws and resulting understaffing mean elderly Australians are experiencing unnecessary pain, suffering and premature death in almost every community. We will not rest until federal laws are put in place and elder neglect ends.
The QNMU welcomes increased reporting for this industry.
In fact, we have called for it. Since 2009, the QNMU has lodged 29 submissions to 29 federal government and other investigations on aged care. They have all been largely ignored.
These QNMU submissions called for increased public reporting and, among other things, mandated federal staffing laws to better protect elderly Australians and those who care for them.
Australian nurses will not be blamed, shamed or intimidated into silence.
We will not be held responsible for a federal government system that is desperately failing tens of thousands of elderly Australians.
Aged care is a key federal election issue. The QNMU believes all federal sitting Members of Parliament and candidates should make their aged care platforms clear, including whether they support mandating safe staffing levels.
To join Australia's 260,000 nurses and midwives in the fight for improved aged care conditions please visit www.morestaffforagedcare.com.au
To view QNMU audit findings visit https://www.qnmu.org.au/QNMU/PUBLIC/MEDIA_AND_PUBLICATIONS/Media_release_uploads/2018/Audit_130518.aspx
Queensland nurses tired of inaction on elder neglect have joined forces to conduct a secret, state-wide audit of aged care facilities.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union