Nurses urge government to support aged care action plan

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The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is calling on the Morrison government to urgently implement its five-point action plan to protect elderly Australians living in nursing homes from further COVID-19 outbreaks.

After giving evidence to the aged care royal commission via video link on Wednesday, ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said the unfolding tragedy in Victoria clearly demonstrates a lack of leadership from the government and a failure to ensure preparedness across the sector to deal with COVID-19.

As deaths related to aged care outbreaks continue to grow in Victoria, an alarming report on the ABC detailed information from an aged care nurse who contracted COVID-19 explaining that staff were not given proper training in infection control and how to use personal protective equipment (PPE).

“As there is no vaccine or definitive treatment for COVID-19 yet, it’s critically important that the sector’s focus is on preparedness, which means prevention and control, rather than just focusing on how to respond once an outbreak has occurred,” Ms Butler said.

“While the sector continues to require wholescale and widespread reform to fix the crisis that existed before the pandemic, there are several key actions the government can implement immediately to ensure our elderly are better protected.”

The ANMF recommendations include: additional staffing with the right skills, a sufficient supply of PPE with the right training, paid pandemic leave, transparency for government funding and a cessation of further cuts to nursing and care.

“Providers must have sufficient numbers of qualified nurses and carers with the right mix of skills, so they are suitably prepared to fight the outbreak with a skilled surge workforce,” Ms Butler said. “And these staff must be equipped with sufficient supplies of PPE and genuine infection prevention and control education and training, which must include time to practise those skills under the guidance and supervision of an infection control expert.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the ANMF has written and been in contact with the aged care minister Richard Colbeck on at least eight occasions, offering our help and advice on the mounting issues plaguing the aged sector, particularly around inadequate staffing and shortages of PPE and other workforce support measures.

“Unfortunately, the government has not responded and has not implemented actions which may have provided better protections for elderly Australians.

“The untold grief and trauma that too many have already had to experience cannot be undone, but the government has the power, and the responsibility, to take our advice and act immediately on our action plan.”

According to the latest figures, one in four Melbourne nursing homes has a coronavirus outbreak and across Australia nursing home deaths account for 70 per cent of Australia’s COVID-19 death toll, which is the highest anywhere in the world.

When asked about these figures at the COVID-19 Senate hearing on Friday, Department of Health secretary Brendan Murphy said that was an “extraordinary” interpretation.

“Every death is an absolute tragedy … but to interpret a percentage of an extremely low death rate as an example of poor aged care management is simply not defensible,” Prof. Murphy said.

“We find that a very misleading conclusion and we reject that it represents a pejorative assessment of our aged care.

“Clearly more can always be done,” he said.

“We have a meeting every morning with the prime minister to discuss the Victorian aged care outbreaks –it is a serious concern for government and it is a tragic situation which we had hoped would not occur.”

At the royal commission into aged care on Thursday, Peter Rozen QC accused the federal government of acting with “self-congratulation” and “hubris” by not learning lessons and not preparing Victoria for the devastating outbreak in aged care.

Do you think the federal government dropped the ball on protecting the aged care sector from a COVID-19 outbreak? Are they doing enough now to try and stop the outbreak from spreading?

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Written by Ben

25 Comments

Total Comments: 25
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    Australia, as a whole, has ‘dropped the ball’ as far as aged care goes. It is, and has, been an absolute disgrace. I will even go as far to say the Federal and State Governments have been both incompetent, and negligent, with providing adequate care for our elderly in their final years. They appear to go far and beyond when children are concerned. But when it comes to Aged Care, they have proven, over and over again, the Governments don’t care.

    We elderly are just not cute enough it seems. From my readings, and observations, of aged care in Australia, I am of the opinion Aged Care should be funded and operated by the Federal Government. Aged Care should be a not-for-profit operation, as there is no money to be made in looking after the elderly. We demand better care, better food, better facilities, and a much improved staff to patient ratio, and much more realistic guidelines and timelines for nurses and staff to provide proper and humane care for the elderly properly.

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      Another entitled view from the money grows on trees school of life.Like me you may have paid your taxes but unlike me you therefore think that governments owe you a special duty of care at their expense.

      Governments are confronted with many hard decisions because it is simply not true that their resources are infinite. I have taken the initiative and have funded my own retirement and don’t expect the government to care for me in my old age – by the way I retired 17 years ago.

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      Thats ok alan, but if you don’t croak it at home guess where you will eventually end up. No doubt Alzheimers and nursing home, where you are the living dead..

      Relatives might come knocking but guess what no ones home upstairs..

      I just hope the end comes quick

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      Not at all Alan. I am a self funded retiree of 62 years of age. It will be a long time, if any, before I will get any money from the Government in the form of an Aged Pension, and I hope a long time before I ever have to go into Aged Care. And I have paid my taxes all my working life, and I definitely know I will not be receiving anything from the Government. All I was saying is, Aged Care requires higher staffing numbers to enable our hard working nurses, nursing assistants, cleaners, caterers etc to provide adequate care for our elderly. Showering, and clothing, elderly people who have numerous and various ailments and physical injuries, is hard work, and takes a lot more time than many companies are allowing their staff to perform this one duty. The staff are ‘busting their gut’ trying to get everything done, and cannot spend any time, sitting down, and having a talk with each patient/resident, which the elderly enjoy. Costs are the real issue. And not all will be able to afford the enter into Aged Care, without financial assistance from the Government.

    • 0
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      Well said

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      I agree with you CoogeeGuy. It’s sad indictment on our country’s priorities when we cannot provide adequate care for our elderly and infirmed. Alan there always seems to be enough money for defence, money for sports clubs if you are in the right electorate and and allowing big business to pay little to no taxes but insufficient money for health and aged care. I am also a self funded retiree Alan so I expect little from the government for myself. Especially this current government!

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      I don’t see it as an issue of government funding – but rather an issue of disgraceful profiteering and pure greed by private providers. A relative went into a home run by a UK company that runs a large chain of aged ‘care’ homes. She paid through the nose. Had to sell her home to pay a huge RAD on which the Home collected a massive 7% interest ($31,500 per annum). On top of that she had to pay a daily care fee and another fee (I can’t recall what they called the other fee). In total, we worked out the Home was collecting over $80,000 a year from her. Many residents were paying a lot more, because costs were calculated based on income. Only a tiny handful in that Home had their care government funded.

      When this lady went in, the care was quite good. The Home was well run. But the management decided they weren’t making enough profit so replaced the manager with a woman whose sole focus was cutting costs. Staff numbers were slashed. Food quality was reduced. All kinds of recreational facilities were shut down.

      For $80,000 a year, the lady could have resided in a luxury hotel! Given that the government makes a large contribution to the cost of care even for those paying their own way, and the RAD program is highly profitable (plus those who can’t pay RAD pay a hefty weekly fee for accommodation), these Homes have plenty of capacity to provide good quality care. There’s no excuse for their failure.

      I heard of a few people who were building their own aged care homes – limited to four couples carefully selected, who all contributed to the build cost – and hiring staff to look after them and the facility. As each original contributing couple passed on, their heirs sold their share of the facility to another aged couple. Cost way less overall and the quality of care was under the control of the residents and their families. Sounds good to me!

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      Totally agree, Feds should run. If the Feds are going to be blamed, as Vic is trying to do, then they should not only licence, they should take over the whole thing, go into any facility, in any state, at any time, WITHOUT WARNING, to ensure that our Seniors are being cared for properly, regardless of where they are. The Feds provide so much money for care, but it goes into state coffers, never to be seen where it is needed. Then the operators do their bit, and once again it is the occupants of these facilities that suffer…. it’s all about money. At least if the Feds ran them, not State Govts, so many who were refused hospital beds in Vic, would be alive today.

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    Just a thought, maybe where families are able, remove their oldies from the nursing homes whilst this virus is so deadly to places filled with elderly people. Some might not be able to but any reduction in the people in the facilities would help. With so many people at home now it might be possible to get some out of these homes and into family care.

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    Private Business has no place in Age Care, Age Care should be properly funded and staffed well by the Federal Government with no loopholes to escape scrutiny.

  4. 0
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    I find it disappointing that groups take advantage of a terrible time in our history, everyone seems to be an expert on how to handle this pandemic, the fact that most countries around the world have not come up with the answers, but strangely social media and groups wanting to take advantage of the situation can tell us where we are going wrong, when you compare our situation to the rest of the world it seems to me that we have done ok, all deaths will be deeply felt by the families because all lives matter it doesn’t matter if the deaths are in Victoria or any other states our thoughts should be with those people who have lost a loved one, we shouldn’t be trying to point score, let’s play the blame game later and learn as much as we can from what has happened.

  5. 0
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    I agree with others here that private business has no place in the aged care swamp. Drain it, and drain it now. Perhaps we could have the option in middle age of insuring ourselves against the risk of occupying an aged care bed. Two things are missing from current health protections: dentistry and quality aged care. I understand it’s only a very small proportion of the population that ends up in a nursing home.
    As for the virus. We do not know how long this virus is going to be with us. Perhaps take the longer view: it may be with us forever. That would mean we cannot shut down the country every time there’s a cluster. Perhaps dedicate a new federally funded departmental authority to hands-on support and guide elderly and vulnerable persons through this insidious situation. Make such a service easily available to help guide vulnerables through the necessities of everyday life, help them plan a safe holiday, visit their interstate families, etc. Then let everyone else rip. Let them get on with the business of living and keeping our economy running. Whilst being a taxpayer funded cost, such a service might possibly be way less expensive and fit for purpose than what’s happening now.

  6. 0
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    The main problem with the aged care process here both in nursing homes and in home care is the ridiculous amount of money spent on administration by companies leaving very little for on the ground services. It is also the d8stain shown by the government and companies for the value of These workers be they nurses or other care staff. They are paid a pittance whereas that is where the money needs to go. It continues to be a disgrace and no they have not learnt from past experience otherwise the present help would have gone into Victorian nursing homes far sooner after Sydney. We knew about the problems in the commission of enquiry yet no plan was put into place when we new covid was going to hit.

  7. 0
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    I agree with you CoogeeGuy. It’s sad indictment on our country’s priorities when we cannot provide adequate care for our elderly and infirmed. Alan there always seems to be enough money for defence, money for sports clubs if you are in the right electorate and and allowing big business to pay little to no taxes but insufficient money for health and aged care.

  8. 0
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    I agree with you CoogeeGuy. It’s sad indictment on our country’s priorities when we cannot provide adequate care for our elderly and infirmed. Alan there always seems to be enough money for defence, money for sports clubs if you are in the right electorate and and allowing big business to pay little to no taxes but insufficient money for health and aged care.

  9. 0
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    Sorry. For some reason I am unable to remove my replies that have become repetitive here. Perhaps the editor could rectify this for me please?

  10. 0
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    this government look upon health, aged and mental care as a business opportunity and not a social responsibility.

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