The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has welcomed aged care funding in the 2018/19 Federal Budget for additional home care packages, but says this will not fix the crisis in aged care and is disappointed that, once again, the Government has failed to address the urgent need for safe staffing in nursing homes.
The ANMF’s A/Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said with over 100,000 elderly Australians on high-priority waiting lists for home care packages, (almost 80% of them higher level three and four care packages) funding to meet the ever-growing demand for in-home aged care services was long-overdue.
“It’s simply unacceptable that waiting lists have blown out to this point, with thousands and thousands of people waiting more than a year for the care services they need to remain in their home,” Ms Butler said.
“Our members are pleased the Government has allocated funding into additional home care packages and palliative care services, but they know that this will do nothing to ensure safe and timely care for elderly Australians already in residential care, and those who will need it soon, because the Government has done nothing to ensure that aged care providers are employing enough nurses and carers.
“We know that from 2003 to 2016, there’s been a 13% reduction in qualified nursing staff working full-time in aged care while over the same period there’s been a 400% increase in preventable deaths in nursing homes.
“This chronic staffing crisis has led to dangerous workloads for nurses and carers resulting, too often, in missed care for vulnerable nursing home residents, yet the Government is still not prepared to guarantee safe staffing levels in residential aged care.
“We also know that the only way to guarantee safe staffing levels in aged care is to tie Government funding to the provision of care. And the best way to achieve this is through mandated minimum staff ratios.
“While small not-for-profit, particularly rural and remote, aged care providers are struggling to make ends meet, we know that the large for-profit providers have the financial capacity to improve staffing to ensure safe and effective care for residents but are choosing to focus on maximising profit rather than providing safe staffing levels.
“Last week, the ANMF released a comprehensive report, prepared by the Tax Justice Network, which shows that the six largest for-profit providers, some foreign entities, are benefitting from $2.17 Billion in Government subsidies, yet paying little or no tax – at the expense of residents.
“If the Government is serious about ensuring quality service provision, it needs to shift its focus from company tax cuts to company tax collection by closing the loopholes that allow large forprofit companies to profit from taxpayers’ money.
“This Saturday, 12 May, the ANMF will be launching our new national campaign calling on our politicians to stand up for elderly Australians and make staffing ratios law, as a matter of urgency to fix the crisis in aged care.”The ANMF also welcomed Budget funding for capital works for aged care providers in rural, regional and remote areas; dementia and mental health programs for older Australians.