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Aged Care Shortcomings Detailed In New Report

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A state-wide audit of aged care facilities has revealed chronic understaffing and associated elder neglect in all 30 federal Queensland electorates, including in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Central Queensland, Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast (regional breakdown at the end of this article).

Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle said the QNMU recently audited more than 80 aged care facilities and every facility audited failed to provide the recommended care hours of care for elderly residents.

She said nurses, midwives and QNMU staff tired of federal inaction on conditions in Australian aged care designed and volunteered to conduct the secret audit.

The audit, believed to the first of it kind, revealed elderly Queenslanders throughout the state were routinely forced to wait for help and were not properly washed, fed, medicated, exercised or turned.

All 83 facilities audited failed to provide the recommended 4.3 hours of care per resident per day, as outlined by research commissioned by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery federation (ANMF). The audit also revealed the average care hours per resident per day was just 2.61 hours – or 1.69 hours below the hours recommended.

The lowest hours of care, an average of 1.69 hours per resident per day, were detected in facilities audited in the federal electorate of Moncrieff which includes the Gold Coast suburbs of Nerang, Carrara and Miami.

The highest levels of care, an average of 3.11 hours per resident per day, were found in the federal electorate of Groom which includes Toowoomba. This was still more than an hour less than required. Full breakdown is included below.

“Nurses, midwives and QNMU staff tired of federal inaction on aged care recently took matters into their own hands to conduct a secret audit of aged care facilities,’’ Ms Mohle said.

“Today [Friday] we reveal the federal electorate breakdown of the audit’s findings.

“The results are startling. The QNMU’s audit has confirmed Queensland’s aged care facilities are in crisis due to chronic understaffing and the complete lack of federal staffing laws in Australia’s private aged care industry.’’

Australia’ 2600-plus private aged care facilities are the responsibility of the federal government. In Australia there are no federal laws that require even a single Registered Nurse be on site at an aged care facility at any time. The lack of laws means aged care facilities are free to staff their facilities as they see fit.

As a result, it has become common practice for a number of aged care facilities to leave residents without a Registered Nurse overnight, every night.

The QNMU today [Friday] wrote to every Queensland federal sitting Member of Parliament and Senator to request they reveal where they stand on aged care and whether they will sign a QNMU pledge for a federal safe staffing law to be introduced in aged care. The results will be published before the federal election.

Queensland federal politicians are asked to take note of aged care levels revealed in their electorates. Those who have already signed on to support the pledge can be viewed at https://bit.ly/ACpledges

The results will be distributed to the media and 260,000 nurse and midwife members of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF). The QNMU, with more than 59,000 nurses and midwifes, is a member of the ANMF.

On May 12 the ANMF launched a national campaign to see staffing levels made law in Australian aged care. To join the campaign or read more please visit www.qnmu.org.au/ratiosforagedcare

Since 2009, the QNMU has made 29 submissions to federal, state and other agencies aged care inquiries calling for change to protect the elderly and those who care for them. The QNMU is extremely frustrated by the lack of federal action and concern for elderly Australians. In addition, the QNMU has been written and distributed more than 50 media releases highlighting the risks to elderly Australians in aged care since 2013.

The Morrison government and federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt on Thursday announced they would not introduce a national safe staffing law to protect hundreds of thousands of elderly Australians in care.

The refusal to set minimum staff levels to protect the elderly and those who care for them was outlined in the federal government’s Aged Care Workforce Taskforce Strategy report released yesterday. The report suggested a “social media campaign’’ and the continued use of a “voluntary code of practice’’ for aged care providers.

Last financial year alone, Australia’s private aged care providers received more than $16 billion in federal taxpayer dollars. They do not have to report how the money was spent. Australian age care providers recently reported profits of more than $1 billion. Australian aged care residents pay providers deposits of up to $500,000 per bed and then up to 80 per cent of their pension or up to $700 a fortnight to receive care. It is time aged care providers were held responsible for the lives in their care.

QNMU’s aged care audit findings include:

More than 77 per cent of aged care staff were not nurses and don’t have the training to provide the complex care that many aged care residents now require
80% of those audited said understaffing forced residents to wait longer than they should for help
80.5% said staff levels were unsafe at their facility
68% said they did not have enough time to properly clean residents. It has become common practice for residents to be showered only every few days due to chronic understaffing
60.9% said residents were not being walked as often as required
62.2% not enough time to turn residents increasing likelihood of bed sores and ulcers. Research shows these wounds account for large numbers of life-threatening infections and hospitalisations
55% said staff were not replaced when they couldn’t come to work
57% said they did not have enough time to properly feed residents
57.3% said dangerous understaffing lead to increased falls. Research shows falls may lead to premature death
40.2% said poor staffing lead to pressure injuries
Average nursing hours provided by aged care facilities 2.6 hours per resident per day
Research shows residents require on average 4.3 hours of nursing per day
41% of facilities audited were providing 2.5 or less hours care a day.
Breakdown of care hours provided by federal electorate:

GROOM: Toowoomba: 3.11 hours

OXLEY: Brisbane, Ipswich: 3.05 hours

GRIFFITH: Brisbane suburbs of Woolloongabba, Mt Gravatt, Morningside, Murarrie: 3.04

DAWSON: Whitsunday, Townsville, Bowen, Mackay, Proserpine: 2.92

DICKSON: Brisbane suburbs of Mt Glorious, Albany Creek, Kallangur: 2.88

LONGMAN: Bribie Island, Caboolture: 2.85

FAIRFAX: Sunshine Coast suburbs of Maroochydore, Buderim, Nambour, Kenilworth, Coolum: 2.82

FORDE: Logan to Upper Coomera: 2.80

HERBERT: Townsville: 2.79 BONNER: Brisbane suburbs of Port of Brisbane, Lytton, Mt Gravatt: 2.79

MARANOA: Winton, Barcaldine, Stanthorpe, Warwick, Nanango: 2.75

RANKIN: Brisbane suburbs of Woodridge to Daisy Hill: 2.68

HINKLER: Bundaberg to Hervey Bay: 2.66

BLAIR: Includes Kilcoy, Esk: 2.64

KENNEDY: Includes Townsville, Charters Towers, Cairns, Mt Isa, Cloncurry, Mareeba: 2.64

BOWMAN: Brisbane suburbs including Cleveland, Alexandra Hills, Victoria Point, North Stradbroke Island: 2.63

LILLEY: Brisbane suburbs including Nudgee, Sandgate and Shorncliffe: 2.60

FADDEN: Gold Coast: 2.59

PETRIE: Redcliffe, North Lakes, Deception Bay: 2.58

FLYNN: Bundaberg and Rockhampton: 2.56

MORETON: Brisbane suburbs including Yeronga, Annerley, Archerfield and Sunnybank: 2.51

FISHER: Sunshine Coast Mooloolaba to Glasshouse Mountains: 2.46

BRISBANE: Includes suburbs of Newmarket, Stafford, Brisbane CBD, New Farm and Paddington: 2.46

CAPRICORNIA: Mackay, Whitsunday, Yeppoon: 2.34

McPHERSON: Gold and Tweed Coasts, suburbs including Merrimac, Tallebudgera and Coolangatta: 2.08

MONCRIEFF: Gold Coast suburbs including Nerang, Carrara and Miami: 1.69

Ms Mohle commended the hard work and continued efforts of aged care nurses and other staff. She said aged care nurses and carers were doing their best to look after the elderly in often extreme circumstances. She said aged care nurses and other staff should not be blamed for current unacceptable conditions in aged care and stated the system was failing the elderly and those who care for them.

Ms Mohle commended the Palaszczuk Government for committing to introduce nurse to resident ratios or laws to Queensland’s 16 state-run aged care facilities.

Michelle Price has been working as a journalist since 1999 and loves human interest pieces.

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