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Issue #1789      August 9, 2017

Stop cuts to aged care

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), is alarmed that another major aged care provider is slashing hundreds of nursing hours and compromising the quantity and quality of care being provided to elderly nursing home residents.

First it was Southern Cross Care (SCC), now Queensland’s largest aged care provider Blue Care is playing the blame game by claiming a $1.2 billion reduction in federal funding is the reason why it may sack up to 11 nurses and dramatically cut the rostered hours of other registered and enrolled nurses at three of its Bundaberg facilities (Millbank; Pioneer; Riverlea).

Federal secretary Lee Thomas said the ANMF was also concerned that as part of its “slash and burn” job cuts, Blue Care will replace specialist aged care nurses with less-qualified personal care workers in administering critical medication to more than 280 nursing home residents.

“As an agency of UnitingCare Queensland, we are terribly disappointed that Blue Care is following down this slippery slope, cutting hundreds of nursing hours for vulnerable aged care residents, many of whom have complex care needs and medication regimes,” Thomas said.

“It’s incongruous that Blue Care’s own Mission Statement is that it’s ‘committed to assisting people who require care’, yet it’s drastically slashing hundreds of nursing hours and allowing less-qualified personal care workers to administer medication in lieu of high-trained nurses. That’s hardly a commitment to care is it? If anything, it’s only going to compromise the care they can provide to their residents.”

Ms Thomas said the ANMF was extremely concerned that providers like SCC and Blue Care are blatantly ignoring the findings of a recent Senate Inquiry; the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and evidence from ANMF members working in aged care – that inadequate staffing levels are resulting in ever-increasing missed-care episodes and abuse and neglect of the elderly.

“With all this evidence showing how the elderly are at risk, it’s disgraceful that certain providers are going ahead with these massive cuts to nursing hours, then trying to pass the buck on to the federal government,” Ms Thomas.

“Unless the Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt steps-in and puts a stop to it, then there’s little doubt other aged care providers will get in on the act and start sacking nurses and cutting rostered nursing hours at their facilities.”

Ms Thomas said the decision by SCC and Blue Care to cut nursing hours will only exacerbate the current crisis in aged care.

In Tasmania, ANMF members have voted under a protected ballot to proceed with industrial action against SCC whilst in South Australia, the ANMF is continuing to fight SCC’s plan to reduce rostered hours across five sites.

The ANMF federal office is supporting its respective state branches in a national media campaign against the nursing cuts and to again urge the federal government to introduce regulation for minimum staffing which will stop providers deciding on the number of nurses needed to deliver care to vulnerable nursing home residents.

Next article – Climate of fear in the Torres Strait

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