More than half the nurses, assistants in nursing (AIN) and members of the community who participated in the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s (ANMF) national survey on aged care would change their vote in the upcoming federal election if a major party restores the devastating funding cuts to the aged care sector to improve the services, staffing levels and basic standards of care provided to elderly, vulnerable nursing home residents.
Almost 2,500 people took part in the ANMF phone-in and on-line questionnaire, with more than 93% of workers and 96% of community members saying the current level of funding did not meet the needs of residents, particularly those with high-care requirements. When asked to list the issues they were most concerned about, over 90% of workers and over 92% of the community both said adequate staffing levels for providing high care.
The survey revealed how very basic standards of care for nursing home patients, including feeding; bathing; bed changes; and pain and continence management were now suffering, as a result of poor staffing levels and lack of funding. At some nursing homes across the country, 1 Registered Nurse (RN) was caring for up to 130 residents.
One nurse said: “The way the elderly are treated makes me ashamed to be a nurse and more so an Australian. Private run nursing homes make these poor people’s lives hell, they use them as money making machines and as nurses we can do nothing about it. Speaking out only ends up in you losing your job. The elderly deserve a whole lot better.”
The key responses to the survey included:
- 12% of workers and 85.32 % of the community said current staffing at their facility was not sufficient to provide an adequate standard of care;
- 68% of workers and 85% of the community said the current ratio of RNs to other care staff at their facility was inadequate;
- 76% of workers and over 96% of the community said current funding for aged care was inadequate and did not meet the needs of aged care residents;
- 66% of workers and 60% of the community said they would change their vote at the election if one of the parties restored funding to the sector.
When asked what needs to be done to improve aged care, over 80% of workers and the community pointed to greater Government funding, with 80% of workers and 91% of the community calling for regulated nurse ratios. A total of 63% of workers and 91% of the community also cited minimum training and regulation of care staff as needing improvement. 52% of workers and 75% of the community said there should be financial penalties for providers who did not deliver a minimum standard of care.
After examining the findings, Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the ANMF was compiling a report of the survey, to be sent to the Government, the Opposition and the Greens for their urgent attention.
“We are extremely concerned and alarmed at what our nurses, AINs and the relatives of loved ones in nursing homes have told us about the terrible issues they’re experiencing in aged care, particularly that care needs are not being met,” Ms Thomas said.
“What’s apparent is that nurses and AINs are overworked and they’re angry and upset that they can’t do their job, that their hands have been tied. They can’t deliver basic standards of care, like spending adequate time bathing and feeding their patients and being able to spend a little time with them, just to treat them as people. They are struggling to provide the basic care that their frail, vulnerable residents and the families of their residents deserve.
“These comments from frontline aged care staff paint a bleak picture of how $1.8 billion axed from aged care is already starting to hurt their patients. The Government is still failing to develop a proper workplace strategy. So unfortunately it’s only going to get worse, unless our political leaders stand up for elderly Australians and commit to restoring the funding which has been cruelly axed from aged care. The high percentage of participants who said they’d change their vote for aged care, shows that it’s fast become an election issue that our politicians should realise could be a game changer for them.”
ANMF SURVEY COMMENTS FROM AGED CARE STAFF:
“Aged care residents have very high care needs – ratio of staff to resident is impossible for adequate care to be given.
“With no resident to staff ratios in place, we are under pressure ALL the time to provide quality care at a million miles an hour.
“Staff are always working short. Even fully staffed there are not enough staff to adequately care for the residents. On evening shift, one RN looks after 115 residents onsite, and another 25 offsite – it is not physically possible to provide quality care. ENs are caring for up to 35 residents each. Of an evening, an AIN cares for up to 34 residents by themselves.
“I go to work and I am one nurse to 120 so I’m very concerned. The lack of staff and conditions are revolting.
“Resistance from company to release money for residents’ needs. Wound care products…It’s very difficult to get a superior product due to the cost. This means delayed wound healing. Inability to provide quality of care.
“It saddens me that our aged population are not entitled to decent care.
“Put a politician in our jobs for a week and I’m sure they’d be keen to change things. Even better, admit them as a resident.”
 ANMF Estimation of impacts of 2016-7 Budget and MYEFO Cuts to Aged Care Funding in Marginal seats.