The spotlight on aged care has shifted from fees to staff cuts this week, with a push by the major nursing unions to highlight slashed positions and reduced hours.
In Queensland, 126 aged care facilities are expected to be affected by staff cuts according to Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union secretary Beth Mohle.
“Blue Care/Wesley Mission Brisbane recently announced plans to reduce overtime and create below award wages, to introduce split shifts of as little as one hour and to diminish all job security for nurses and personal carers,” Ms Mohle told a Bundaberg news service.
“Aged care staff are already the lowest paid health workers in Queensland, with some earning up to $600 less a fortnight than their public health colleagues.”
“This in contrast to BCWMB which is part of UnityCare Queensland – a group that reported a 2015 surplus of more than $40 million.”
QNMU regional organiser Linda Fuller said aged care was already in a critical state and providers are downplaying the extent of staffing cuts, which are in response to federal Government funding cuts.
“At a time when we should be increasing, we’re decreasing,” Ms Fuller said.
“They’ve all got to reapply for their positions at a reduced rate.”
Ms Fuller said of the 16 enrolled nurses employed at the Pioneer Aged Care Facility, six could reapply for their positions but would face reduced hours.
She said that while staff were expecting some cuts, the number of nurses being put off was greater than they had anticipated.
“The figures they sighted don’t match up with what (Blue Care) told staff,” she said.
“It’s not marrying up.”
The other issue gaining attention is a rise in personal care workers allegedly taking on tasks normally performed by nursing staff, including administering medication
“There needs to be more nurses, not changing to a PCW (personal care worker) model,” she said.
“It’s highly inappropriate because they don’t understand the basic pharmacology. They can assist but they shouldn’t be administering.
“Would you like someone to give you medicines who has no idea of pharmacology?
“Personal carers should not be giving out medication.”
A spokesperson for Blue Care has said Federal Government aged care reforms and declining occupancy rates have led to staff cuts.
“Significant changes to aged care funding as a result of the Federal Government’s Aged Care reforms combined with average occupancy rates in decline at our Bundaberg facilities means we need to review our services to ensure the best outcomes for our clients and our employees are achieved,” the spokesperson said.
“In response to these impacts we are currently reviewing our rostering and service arrangements across three of our Bundaberg facilities and have commenced consultation with our employees.”
“We recognise our employees are an integral part of the Blue Care team and we will be doing everything we can to ensure the best outcomes can be achieved for them.”