Aged care nurses contemplate futures ahead of election

As Fair Work Commissioners visit residential aged care facilities during the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and Health Services Union’s historic 25 per cent award wage case, many NSW-based aged care nurses are considering how long they can persevere at work.

A survey of more than 2,000 NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) aged care members revealed 75 per cent were contemplating leaving the sector in the next year, unless urgent aged care reforms occurred.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said unsafe workloads and low wages were the key reasons for wanting to leave, and reiterated calls for legislated staffing ratios and real wage increases for nurses, assistants in nursing and other care workers.

“Tackling the crisis in aged care has never been more important. The sector has been ignored for too long and the widespread neglect is a human rights issue, it cannot continue,” said Mr Holmes.

More than 80 per cent of respondents indicated they were short staffed on their last shift before taking the survey, while 78 per cent said staffing was not safe and had impacted their ability to provide adequate care to residents.

“Many of our aged care members agreed the impact of short staffing meant residents were forced to wait long periods when seeking assistance or help and there was not enough time to properly feed or shower residents,” Mr Holmes said.

“49 per cent indicated injuries or falls had occurred due to short staffing, while 44 per cent said it caused late or missed medications.”

During the ongoing pandemic, 70 per cent stated their aged care facility had experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, and 93 per cent said their workplace had not been allocated additional federal government support from Australian Defence Force personnel.

While over 90 per cent of respondents indicated they had access to personal protective equipment stock, alarmingly 69 per cent had not been fit tested for P2/N95 face masks. Many commented the stock was inferior quality or inadequate sizes.

Mr Holmes said the survey results were damning and urged the community to consider the differences in election commitments regarding aged care reform, before casting a vote next month.

“Labor has acknowledged the Age Care Royal Commission’s recommendations and has pledge to legislate staffing ratios, ensure a registered nurse is on duty around the clock, and supports a real wage rise. However, the Morrison government’s aged care policies will not fix the current crisis,” added Mr Holmes.

Aged care nurses and supporters campaigned across five NSW electorates this week, desperate to keep a focus on the aged care crisis ahead of the federal election. Local aged care rallies took place at Gosford (Roberston), Katoomba (Macquarie), Shoalhaven (Gilmore), Wyong (Dobell) and Yass (Eden-Monaro).

The NSWNMA confirmed it would continue campaigning to ensure all aged care promises are urgently delivered.

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