Aged care staffing cuts despite pandemic
ON the anniversary of the Earle Haven aged care crisis the Queensland Nurses Union has revealed that an audit into aged care providers shows 64 per cent have cut staff since March, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The investigation, which was carried out by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), also discovered that Queensland facilities were the worst off for PPE supplies and nurses were doing cleaning duties.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle said members continued to report staff cuts and hour reductions from major private aged care providers.
It comes on the anniversary of one of the state's most shocking treatments of the elderly when Earle Haven on the Gold Coast abruptly closed.
The union said with the borders opening the public would assume staffing numbers would be ramped up to protect the elderly during the pandemic, but despite a cash injection of more than $66 billion in taxpayer funds since mid 2014, the numbers are being stripped back.
"Every nurse cut from this already depleted workforce will increase the likelihood of elderly residents experiencing unnecessary pain, suffering and premature death,'' Ms Mohle said.
"Nurses know chronic understaffing means elderly Australians are experiencing malnutrition, dehydration, falls, long waits to be changed, to receive medication or to be showered as well as increased isolation and depression.
"We have real concerns regarding COVID-19 also. Cutting already low nurse numbers is unbelievable. During a pandemic it should ignite outrage."
Ms Mohle said QNMU members reported some cuts were made or planned during the peak of COVID-19.
"The QNMU has received a report that some cuts were made or planned in the midst of COVID-19 - during lock down and at a time when elderly residents needed staff the most,'' Ms Mohle said.
"This was also a time when private aged care in Australia received an additional $205 million in federal government funding to boost staff numbers, provide PPE and perform infection control training." When the Earle Haven aged care shut down occurred on July 11 last year, only one registered nurse was on site to provide care for 68 high-need residents. The shutdown occurred following a financial dispute between the owner and the company that had been subcontracted to provide care at the facility.
Close to 70 elderly residents were left homeless and had to be evacuated overnight.
A federal investigation handed down 23 recommendations.
Originally published as Aged care staffing cuts despite pandemic