Advancing reconciliation

The NSWNMA will do its utmost to help improve the health and lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders just as we are committed to improving the health and lives of all Australians.

In this issue of The Lamp we have a special insert on Indigenous health and union issues as a part of our celebrations for National Reconciliation Week.

Reconciliation Australia – an independent, not-for-profit national expert body set up in 2001 – has the goal to build relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It also aims to inspire and enable all Australians to contribute to reconciliation and to break down stereotypes and discrimination.

These are goals we strongly support. NSWNMA has a long history of supporting the cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We will continue that support in whatever way we can.

A key feature of the NSWNMA’s strategic plan is about promoting a world class, high quality health system. This goal will never be realised without measures in place that close the gap in health outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the rest of the community.

We are a health professional organisation and we have a responsibility to understand and address the root causes of the very poor health outcomes we see in Indigenous Australians. We are also doing this because we are a trade union and we believe in social justice and we also have a responsibility to carry on the trade union movement’s mostly proud history of supporting this cause.

Our commitment to further the cause of reconciliation has a conscious focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, retention, cultural awareness and procurement in the health sector.

An aged care crisis

In this issue of The Lamp we also report on a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia which should set the alarm bells ringing about the state of aged care.

The study found that the number of preventable deaths in aged care quadrupled in the thirteen years between 2000 and 2013. The most frequent causes of premature death were falls (81.5 per cent), choking (7.9 per cent) and suicides (4.4 per cent).

These numbers are staggering, frightening and unacceptable.

The study is consistent with research that the ANMF has commissioned which found that residents were “frequently missing out on essential care and treatment”.

Underpinning this sorry scenario is chronic understaffing which has reached critical levels.

The ANMF also commissioned a comprehensive National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project in conjunction with health academics which has produced an appropriate skill mix for aged care: 30 per cent RNs, 20 per cent ENs and 50 per cent AiNs. This is the basis of a sound plan to take the sector forward.

Aged care is a long, long way from reaching these staffing levels needed to deliver safe care. In fact the trends have been in the opposite direction and politicians and providers have been stubbornly resistant to improvements.

The NSWNMA has been relentless in its efforts to get a better deal for aged care, especially for the retention of RNs in the sector.

We will continue to fight for aged care and our colleagues throughout Australia share our concerns for the sector and our commitment to improve staffing so older Australians get the care they deserve in their twilight years.