A union has called on the Australian government to make staff-to-resident ratios mandatory in aged care, to tackle a huge staff shortage which could be proving a danger to residents.
It would essentially mean a minimum number of staff would always be on hand, so they never run short and people never go without care when the desperately need it.
Following a series of shocking revelations about aged care homes right across the world over the last few months, acting federal secretary at the Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Annie Butler, told 2GB radio host Michael McLaren it’s simply about a severe shortage of staff.
She says, at its worst, one nurse in Queensland can be expected to manage the overall care of more than 100 residents, adding: “It’s just not possible.”
Explaining that the decision for families to move elderly relatives into homes can be difficult, she said it’s a “complex system to navigate”, adding: “It’s extremely distressing when they find that their loved ones aren’t getting the care that they want them to.”
However, she said it’s “equally” distressing for nurses working in that system, who want to deliver that service – but can’t due to a lack of staff. Butler said, on average, aged care residents in Australia are now getting up to two hours less care than they should be getting every day.
McLaren noted there had been numerous deaths over the last few years, that could potentially have been stopped if more staff were available, and Butler said if those same statistics were revealed for youngsters – there would be “absolute outrage”.
While the host noted it’s likely it would increase the costs of aged care, it would also improve the care given “to our most needy and vulnerable”. He said it seem “ridiculous” that there are ratios of staff for children and in education, but none for elderly or people in aged care.
Meanwhile, Butler insisted the industry had “respect” for aged care minister Ken Wyatt, and the work he’s trying to do – but more still needs to be done.
“We want to call on all federal politicians, to look at this situation, to recognise that there is a staffing crisis in our aged care system, and to commit to introducing ratios.”
Butler has also called for more respect to be shown to older residents in these homes, and ageing Australians in the wider community.
“For too long our elderly have been put away, they’ve had their voices taken away, they’re too silent,” she added. “People just don’t have respect for them that they deserve.
“A lot of people must remember that these are the people who built the society we live in today. They nurtured us, they raised us, they built the community we have, they built this prosperous nation, and we’re not returning the favour.”