Staffing slashed at West Wyalong aged care facility

More stark evidence of the break down in aged care regulation Waratah Village to reclassify beds as low care to avoid employing RNs.

Waratah Village management has told Fair Work Australia that it will reclassify its high care beds as low care beds, despite the residents still being high care, to apparently avoid having to have 24-hour registered nurse coverage at the facility, the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) said today.

Waratah Village is a major rural aged-care facility in the NSW town of West Wyalong, with 73 beds and currently 16 high-care residents.

Here are the relevant extracts from the Fair Work Australia hearing this week:

MR WESTACOTT: (for Waratah Village) Now, the issue is – look, to avoid any doubt in relation to the licensing issue what we’re going to do is there’s a provision within the Aged Care Act to actually apply for licences to be converted. We are doing that this afternoon and we’re taking – because we’ve got 15 vacancies within the facility now we’re actually taking the extra ten. So if we got an extra ten people in today we wouldn’t be able to take them because we would take those licences offline and we couldn’t operate those licences. So that’s effectively what’s going to happen today.

And further:

MR HURLEY-SMITH: (for the NSWNA) Thank you, Commissioner. There’s been some discussions between the parties. The respondent had indicated that they will be approaching the Department of Health and Ageing to change the places – the high care places to low care places and we’ve been told that that will be happening today. The principle is the same for us. There are high care residents there that deserve registered nurses to care for them. So we haven’t been able to resolve the matter. So we’re certainly in your hands, Commissioner, as to how best to proceed with this matter. As I said, an application will be made to the Department of Health today by my friend. We certainly would like to see the outcome of that. But, yes, at this stage the parties are unable to reach a resolution.

NSWNA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said if Waratah Village can do this it is further evidence of the lax regulation that exists in the aged care sector.

“With the stroke of a pen you can just reclassify beds to get around your obligations to employ suitably qualified staff. This is despite the fact the residents themselves are not reclassified. How can a loophole like that be able to exist?” Mr Holmes said.   The NSWNA claims that recent staffing cuts mean Waratah Village no longer has sufficient staff and the right skill mix of staff to ensure residents are cared for properly. This week it sought the assistance of Fair Work Australia (FWA) to address the skill mix problem.

Waratah Village, West Wyalong, has three main areas: a 20-bed nursing home or high care area, a 10-bed dementia area and a 43-bed hostel or low care area.

Up until 31 January this year it was owned and operated by the Bland Shire Council and it had 17 registered and enrolled nurses in its employ, with at least one registered nurse rostered on every shift. On 1 February 2012, the Royal Freemasons Benevolent Institution took over ownership and control of Waratah Village and started reducing staffing levels, claiming inadequate Commonwealth funding as the reason. In fact, with the transfer to Royal Freemasons, nine registered nurses were made redundant and a large number of enrolled nurses (about six) and personal care assistants (PCAs) resigned.

There are now only two registered nurses, who are both engaged in a managerial capacity – one full-time general manager and one part-time care manager – and only rostered between 8.30am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.

All remaining enrolled nurses and PCAs were reclassified as care service employees (CSEs) – although employees who were formerly employed as enrolled nurses continue to be paid as such.

Mr Holmes said the reclassifying of these beds also raises questions about the future availability of high-care beds in West Wyalong.

Contact details  
John Moran
Media Liaison
Ph: 8595-1234

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