Nursing home staffing ‘a danger to residents’

 

Unsafe staff shortages in nursing homes have been exposed in a shocking new survey of aged care workers.

On the eve of the Royal Commission's report into a "cruel and harmful'' system of aged care, the United Workers' Union (UWU) has blown the whistle on "traumatic'' understaffing.

A new UWU survey of low-paid carers reveals widespread staff shortages in Australian nursing homes, which are not required to employ set numbers of nurses or carers.

Four out of five carers warned that older Australians "are not getting the quality care they deserve because of under-staffing''.

UWU aged care director Carolyn Smith said "older Australians are not being kept safe in aged care''.

"Under-staffing, heavy workloads and insecure jobs mean older Australians are not getting the care they need and deserve,'' Ms Smith said.

One carer told the union that she was too busy to speak to residents. Picture: iStock
One carer told the union that she was too busy to speak to residents. Picture: iStock

The survey found 20 per cent of carers have to work two jobs to make ends meet - a potentially dangerous practice during the COVID-19 pandemic - after more than 600 elderly residents died when the virus ripped through nursing homes in Victoria and NSW last year.

Half the workers surveyed said shifts were being left unfilled every day, leading to rushed care of frail residents who need help to eat, shower or go to the toilet.

One carer told the union that residents felt they were a "burden'' to staff run off their feet.

"It's traumatic to staff that we cannot take the time it takes to give the resident the emotional time to be heard, validated and not feel like a burden,'' the carer said.

"At the moment, it doesn't matter how we try and do it, our residents feel like they can't call the bell.''

Another carer said aged care operators "only see the bottom line and their shareholders''.

"They know we need more staff but it's all about money, not care,'' he said.

"We ask for more staff and help but nothing ever happens.

"Most of the staff say nothing as they worry they will lose their job or get less hours.''

One carer told the union that she was too busy to speak to residents being bathed.

"I struggle not having the time to sit and have the time with them,'' she said.

"They're getting us to do more and more tasks and by doing that we don't have the time to even chat with them as we shower them.''

Another aged care worker said shifts were left unfilled.

"When we run down (staff) it's really hard - we get even less time and the care isn't up to standard because they are so rushed to get things done,'' she said.

More than a quarter of the staff surveyed said shifts were going unfilled more than once a week - with 12 per cent reporting rostering gaps more than once each shift.

The aged care Royal Commission has received more than 10,000 public submissions during two years of hearings, and is due to hand its report to the Morrison Government on Friday.

 

Originally published as Nursing home staffing 'a danger to residents'



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