Nursing home sanctioned after staff cut    

Complaints by NSWNMA members have led the aged care regulator to impose sanctions on an understaffed nursing home.

 The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has ordered a nursing home to make improvements after NSWNMA members reported that understaffing was contributing to resident violence, falls and unnecessary hospital admissions.

The commission found Pioneer House Aged Care at Mudgee in central western NSW had failed to meet accreditation standards.

The commission decided Pioneer House would not receive any government payments for new residents until 27 August this year, thereby limiting the number of residents it can accept into care.

It required Pioneer House to appoint an adviser to help it meet its ‘clinical responsibilities’ and said it must train staff to address any skill gaps identified by the commission.

Pioneer House is an 81-bed facility with a large dementia unit.

Members contacted the NSWNMA when management announced it would delete an assistant in nursing (AiN) position on all morning and afternoon shifts, resulting in a reduction in hours worked by casuals.

Members had complained of a high number of unreplaced absences, with staff having to miss breaks and leave work late, even before the announced cut.

In one 31-day period, shifts were not filled on 29 days, staff said.

  High level of violence in the dementia unit

The Association met management to raise concerns that inadequate resident care and the heavy workload would be made even worse by the loss of an AiN position.

When management rejected a union request to delay cutting the position to allow for more consultation, staff contacted the commission.

They told the commission there was a high level of violence in the dementia unit, which was often staffed by a lone AiN, as well as an increase in resident falls and unnecessary hospital admissions.

Staff said that just two days after the AiN position was removed from the afternoon shift, it experienced a serious incident of resident violence.

The facility’s NSWNMA branch called on management to maintain residents’ safety as a priority and establish an adequate casual staff pool to help replace any leave.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the Pioneer House case shows why mandated ratios in aged care are needed urgently.

“Our members are reporting ongoing incidents of missed care and situations where they are working in unsafe conditions, such as in isolation,” Brett said.

“Residents with high-care needs and their families deserve to know whether or not they are receiving the high level of care they require.

“Unsafe workloads, a lack of support from management and fears around resident safety are a recipe for disaster in any aged care setting.”

If you have concerns, speak up

Brett said members at other nursing homes worried about poor standards should follow the example of Pioneer House staff by putting their concerns to management in writing and speaking to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The Mudgee Guardian reported it received “numerous calls” from concerned family members and staff who “say they feel angry and frustrated with the lack of transparency” shown by Pioneer House management.

The newspaper said it spoke to several relatives of residents who asked to remain anonymous because they feared their family members being “singled out” for “retribution”.

“I’m hoping they will put more staff on,” said one family member who complained that her brother sometimes went without a shower “for days and days”.

The paper said: “Another resident asked for help going to the bathroom and was allegedly told that they’d need to get themselves to the bathroom because there were no staff on hand to assist. The resident was unable to and subsequently soiled themselves before help arrived.”

One woman told the paper she wanted “answers as to how we got into this position in the first place. That’s the starting point. It’s all overwhelming, it was such a well-regarded establishment in the community and now not so much.”

‘I’m hoping they will put more staff on,’ said one family member who complained that her brother sometimes went without a shower ‘for days and days’.