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Online reporting tool reveals an aged care sector in dire need of reform enactment

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From overworked staff to residents left soiled for hours on end, the accounts received by new reporting tool Aged Care Watch paints a picture of an industry still crying out for reform.

The new online reporting system, developed by the United Workers Union (UWU), allows aged care workers, residents and carers to report on sub-par care and resourcing issues.

Carolyn Smith, UWU aged care director, told Aged Care News that the system is a much needed tool to keep pressure on the Government.

“Aged care workers face impossible conditions every day trying to keep older Australians safe.

“With this new online reporting tool, aged care workers are able to reveal the truth about the aged care crisis,” she said.

Claims of understaffing and unfilled shifts have tallied in the hundreds within mere months, with many sharing harrowing short stories via the tool’s interactive map.

Aged care workers face impossible conditions every day trying to keep older Australians safe. With this new online reporting tool, aged care workers are able to reveal the truth about the aged care crisis.

Carolyn Smith, UWU aged care director

“It’s become a comfortable prison,” a worker at a facility in East Devonport, Tasmania, reported on tool.

“Staff are under pressure in the morning to stick to routine and complete tasks within a tight time frame.

“They often do not have the free space or leisure to interact with residents to help engage them in social activities… Everyday is just another ground hog day set to repeat.”

In some facilities, understaffing means that many residents needs go totally unanswered.

“Some residents would push their call bell and a staff member would not even listen to what they needed, just say to them I’ll be back in 10 minutes, but then no one would return,” a nursing student from Red Hill, NSW, reported.

Other reports suggest residents lay soiled for hours; one describes an ant infestation out of control, with frail residents left unaided for hours whilst insects crawled upon their skin.

In most cases, workers found management to be unsupportive and uncommitted to resolving staffing issues.

“We are working short staffed almost every day,” a worker from Bendigo, Victoria, said.  

“Management don’t say a word, just point out what we are doing wrong and isn’t trying to fix the staffing issue.

Ross Heyen, an aged care worker and union member from Brisbane, told Aged Care News that the anonymity provided by the platform empowers workers to finally speak up.

“As an aged care worker, it always frustrated me that I couldn’t say anything about the problems I saw everyday,” he said.

“As employees we are limited in how we can speak out by company policies that punish us for speaking to the media, or posting on social media, about the serious understaffing and neglect we see.”

There are hopes that the tool will drive home the message to Government that reforms must be enabled, stat.

“By recording crowd-sourced understaffing issues in one place, Aged Care Watch will put pressure on decision-makers to fund additional care hours,” Smith said.

“It’s a feature of the system that reports will be tallied by electorates providing a detailed picture of the crisis across the country.”

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