Scores of frustrated aged care nurses and assistants, backed by heads of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) gathered at parliament house in Canberra yesterday to implore the Federal Government to address the current crisis in aged care.
The day saw a number of impassioned speeches from nurses and personal care assistants, which were broadcast live via Facebook.
Leading the oration was Annie Butler, ANMF federal secretary, who indicted prime minister Morrison for the workforce crisis and COVID-19 related deaths within residential aged care facilities.
“Mr Morrison, you let this happen and it should never have been allowed,” she said.
“We have known that aged care has been in crisis – a building, growing, deepening crisis- for years.
“It has hit a point now, where we’re seeing the system on the verge of collapse.
“Our aged care nurses and workers are holding the system together as best they can, but they’ve got virtually nothing left.”
Whilst appreciated, Butler noted the Federal Government’s dispatch of Australian Defence Force Members has come as “too little, too late.”
“We asked for it four weeks ago. Where were they in that time?
“Five-hundred-plus people have died.”
Susan Walton, an aged care worker who has worked in the same facility for more than 18 years, described the challenges caused by workforce shortages and the ongoing COVID outbreaks.
“I’d like to tell Mr Morrison everything is not all right: we were treading water before but we’re actually drowning now,” she said.
“Our residents are getting sub-standard care. You can’t get to them; you cannot physically look after 40 people by yourself.
“Mr Morrison how do I make up my mind? Can you tell me how I go to Mr Smith, who’s in pain? Can you tell me how I go to Mrs Jones, who’s on the floor. Can you tell me how I go to John, who’s got behaviour problems and he’s intruding in people’s rooms?
“I’ve got floor alarms going, buzzers going: what would you like me to do?
“Our workforce would all like to be here today, but we can’t leave our people. There’s nobody there to care.
“We are the forgotten people. It’s not our managers’ fault: it’s the system.”
Linda Hardman, an assistant in nursing (AIN) of 21 years, said that she owed it to her colleagues and residents to attend the protest.
“It breaks their hearts that they couldn’t be here today, and you know why they couldn’t be here today? Because they’re needed on the floor,” Hardman said.
“Our residents are counting on us. Our residents worked for this country to be what it is so that we can have the living conditions that we have, and we owe them.
“They deserve quality care and that’s what we want to be able to provide: quality care, not running all the time, trying to answer buzzers, making excuses.
“It’s disgusting, and I hate the fact that we have to rush all the time, make excuses, and my colleagues are getting burnt out. They really and truly are getting burnt out.
“They feel it… These are not just residents: they’re our people. They’re people that we really and truly care about.
“And you know what? We want to make them bloody proud because they deserve it… we’ve been fighting bloody hard, but you know what, we won’t go down without a fight.
“I try and inspire other staff to keep going, but it’s really hard.
“We just need to keep on going and keep our promise to our residents because we have promised them that we will keep fighting and that there will be a better system because that’s what they bloody deserve.”
A spokesperson for the ANMF tells Aged Care News that the Federal Government is yet to respond to the union’s concerns.
Not deterred by the silence, the ANMF has vowed to continue protests until the government institutes tangible reforms.