Rocky union rally in wake of aged care Royal Commission
About 20 people gathered outside Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry's office on Monday morning as part of statewide union action to highlight poor conditions in the private aged care sector, namely insufficient staff numbers, inadequate training, and poor pay.
The seven rallies across Queensland were meant to pressure federal members into acting on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the findings of which were given to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday.
Member for Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke said that as part of a parliamentary committee into aged care, he heard "absolutely horrendous" stories.
"You hear stories of people that have pressed the buzzer because they're wanting to go to the toilet, and it takes 20 minutes. And that poor person's soiled themselves," he said.
"It is absolutely humiliating what is happening in our aged care facilities."
He said federal money for the sector needed to be tied to staff numbers.
"What we're seeing is that some big firms are actually just pocketing those dollars," Mr O'Rourke said.
"They're short-cutting everything that they can to save money and put more money into their back pocket.
"These are our parents, our grandparents. We can't just let a system, like it is, just totally fail these people."
Mr O'Rourke said he was "never confident" about what the Federal Government would do.
"I just wonder sometimes whether they're more focused on the dollar, and supporting their mates at the top end of town, than actually looking after us, the average person out there in the community that needs that support," he said.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union organiser Grant Burton called it a "national crisis".
"These have been systemic issues that have been brought up over the last two years," he said.
"Our data says that 2.86 care hours are currently required. That needs to be increased up to four care hours per day."
He said more trained workers were required to ensure aged care residents got proper care.
"Our aged care nurses … they go to work to give 110 per cent," Mr Burton said.
"They are frustrated that they do not have enough time in the day to give the care that's required.
"They go above and beyond, they miss their meal breaks, they give their own personal time at times to actually care.
"They're not giving what Florence Nightingale envisioned as holistic care to anyone that needs it."
Ms Landry said she spoke with the union last Thursday and had taken their concerns to Cabinet.
"I have elderly parents myself and I am very aware of the challenges that the sector faces, for both patients and aged care staff," she said.
"I am fighting tooth and nail to deliver a stronger aged care sector, with a high quality and skilled workforce that will provide older Australians with the care they rightly deserve."
She said the Royal Commission's report contained 148 recommendations.
"The Government has acted on the Royal Commission's Interim and COVID-19 reports and it will carefully consider its final recommendations," Ms Landry said.
"In 2020, the Federal Government provided $1.8 billion in funding to assist senior Australians in aged care during the COVID-19 pandemic, including an additional $563.3 million announced August 31, 2020 to extend support for the aged care sector response to COVID-19.
"In the 2020-21 Budget, the Government also provided funding of $10.8 million to support aged care nurses to enhance their skills."
Mr Burton thanked Ms Landry, but said she did not agree to sign the union's pledge.
He said the union had not yet been able to get in touch with Senator Matt Canavan.