Aged care is finally on the Federal agenda

Securing more funding for aged care and addressing the staffing crisis in the sector are key aims of the Because we care campaign. Last month the Federal Government finally took steps to put aged care firmly on its agenda.

Extra funding announced

In mid-April the Federal Government announced $700 million for more aged care beds but did not address the primary issues such as ensuring adequate staffing levels and long overdue pay increases for nurses.

Productivity Commission to examine staffing issues

However, a week later, the Government announced that aged care workforce issues will be included in the Productivity Commission’s review of the sector. The ANF has welcomed this decision.

‘This review provides an opportunity to finally address the major issues facing the aged care sector systematically,’ said ANF Federal Secretary Ged Kearney. ‘It demonstrates that the Prime Minister is listening to our concerns and it is the first sign of hope for aged care nurses in a long time.

‘Workforce issues are the most critical challenge facing the sector and this review has the scope to ensure we fix them in the long term. We are also pleased the review will examine ways of making funding for aged care more transparent and accountable.

‘This will help better inform the community on where the taxpayers’ funding to aged care providers is being spent and help ensure that the right level of funding is going to nursing care.

‘We are hopeful that along with this broad review of the system, the government will take some more immediate steps in next month’s Federal Budget, particularly in relation to the dire need for minimum staffing levels in aged care,’ Ged said.

Aged care to be part of health reform

At the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on 19 April, aged care and primary care were named as being included in the Federal Government’s sweeping reforms of the health sector to receive additional funding and support.

These wins are to be celebrated. However, the NSWNA is keen to see funding allocated specifically to improve aged care nurses’ wages.

‘These announcements are very welcome,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes. ‘It’s a credit to everyone involved in the Because we care campaign that raised awareness of the issues in aged care; the Federal Government seems to have listened. It is imperative, however, that funding is allocated to guarantee minimum staffing levels across the sector with the right skill mix and to ensure that aged care nurses receive the pay rise they so richly deserve.

‘Even the public recognise that aged care workers are not paid enough. According to a report by Essential Research, 76% of respondents said they believed aged care workers’ pay to be “too low”. By contrast, 84% found CEOs’ salaries “too high”,’ said Brett.

Aged care gets our vote

Members and NSWNA Officials have been taking part in a series of events to promote the Because we care campaign.

South Coast Labour Council supports aged care

NSWNA Organiser Stella Topaz spoke at the South Coast Labour Council (SCL) in Wollongong on 10 March, with three aged care members, and the SCL Council passed a resolution to publicly support the Because we care campaign.

It also resolved to focus on Seniors’ Week to mobilise support for the campaign in consultation with its affiliates. SLC emailed its members on 23 March, urging them to visit the Because we care website and send a message to their MP.

QACAG goes to Bennelong

At a Seniors’ Week event in Bennelong on 30 March, QACAG members, in conjunction with a local community group, presented Member for Bennelong Maxine McKew with 1,700 pink QACAG postcards for her to pass on to Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot.

Flying high

The NSWNA has created some bookmark-size flyers to distribute to nurses and the wider community to make them aware of the Because we care campaign and what they can do to get involved. Contact Stella Topaz at stopaz@nswnurses.asn.au for more information.

Stalls run by QACAG members

On 20 March members of QACAG held a stall at Bateau Bay shopping Centre where they collected 251 signed postcards in under three hours from the local community. The stall made good use of the new QACAG banners, which were sponsored by the NSWNA.

During Seniors’ Week, a QACAG stall also took place on 30 March at Marrickville Seniors’ Expo in Federal MP Anthony Albanese’s electorate of Grayndler.

Aged care nurses attend Community Cabinet

A delegation of aged care nurses, NSWNA Officers and community members from the Quality Aged Care Action Group attended the Community Cabinet in Bennelong on 8 April.

Community Cabinet is the Rudd Government’s initiative that gives communities the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Federal Government representatives about the issues that matter to them.

Rita Martin from the NSWNA was able to ask a question directly to PM Rudd in the open forum, asking about his plans for aged care in the health reform. The PM said aged care is on the agenda for long-term change but gave no detail, and then requested that Minister Elliott and Treasurer Wayne Swan meet with the delegation after the Forum.

Members run stalls

On 18 March, a lunch and stall was held at Wollongong Nursing Home and 55 campaign postcards calling on MPs to fund aged care were collected from relatives, residents, nurses and other staff. This event was sponsored by Members Equity.

On 20 March, members ran a stall at a large community event in Cessnock: ‘Relay for Life’. They invited their local MP Joel Fitzgibbons to visit the stall and receive the many hundreds of postcards collected in his electorate.