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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Nurses plead for substantial boost to aged care budget

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A delegation of time-poor nurses and carers wants 2021 to be the year of the aged care federal budget.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler said older Australians cannot wait.

“It is not complicated. What we need is more staff,” she told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

“There is no point pouring any more money into a great big bucket that has a gaping hole at the bottom.”

Staff in aged care need time to give quality care and that needs to be funded in a way that ties providers to mandated care ratios and skills.

“Providers need to be accountable for that money and the best way is to mandate minimum staffing levels,” Butler said.

“We have known for two decades, we have participated in 29 separate inquiries before we got to the royal commission.”

Carer and nurse Samantha called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to come and see the everyday reality.

“We’ve got people in our aged care community who are dying alone. Because of our staff ratios we can’t be there in their dying times to support them,” she said.

“They deserve so much more, and so do we.”

Indonesian-born Yuri, from Western Australia, said she felt very sad during the pandemic.

“We need to be their family – us, a carer, a nurse, workers in aged care. We are their family. They really suffer,” she said.

“We need more time to look after our lovely residents.”

Morrison has refused to meet the delegation of union members from across the country but they have been offered meetings with Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt.

They are also putting their case to Labor, the Greens and key crossbenchers for new laws mandating minimum staffing ratios and rules for safer skill mixes among staff in nursing homes.

Zelda, who has been working in aged care for 10 years, says the sector is broken.

“Everyone is time poor, not only carers but also food services, cleaners, we are all time poor.”

People are cutting corners to get the job done at the pace demanded by providers and this is putting older Australians and carers at risk.

“We need someone to listen. We need time to do the job properly,” she said.

The final report of the aged care royal commission identified unacceptably low levels of staffing as the key contributor to substandard care across the system.

United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith said this is a women’s issue as well as a care issue.

The aged care workforce is 90 per cent women and most nursing home residents are women.

“We need urgent action. The system is in crisis,” Smith said.

Registered nurse Emma says she has left the sector after seeing “on a daily basis the neglect that our residents face because of the lack of ratios”.

“It’s so sad to see so many great people having to leave the sector because our government doesn’t support the workforce we deserve to work in,” she said.

“At the very least it’s what our residents are paying for.”


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