The election of a federal Labor government with a coherent plan to fix aged care is a win for the ages for our members in the sector.
We should not underestimate the significance of the moment: this is a historic achievement for our union.
And hats off to our activists in aged care! They have shown perseverance, resilience, patience and courage on a very long journey to this summit.
Their decade (and more!) of fighting for the rights of our elderly has finally paid off.
Credit must be given to the federal Labor Party for listening to the people working at the frontline of what had been an increasingly dysfunctional sector.
The Albanese government has taken on board the solutions put forward by the ANMF and NSWNMA and committed to funding mandated staffing ratios in private aged care facilities, improving wages for the workforce and making sure taxpayer-funds for providers are tied to direct care for residents.
There are many lessons to be absorbed from this momentous election.
A clear one is that the issues that impact women the greatest have to be recognised and acted on by our governments.
The success of the “teal” women candidates around issues of climate change, integrity and gender equality was striking and Scott Morrison’s tin ear towards numerous high profile incidents of sexual violence was a vote changer for many.
But at a more subterranean level there were also cost of living issues that disproportionately impact on working class women: rising prices, low wages and prohibitively expensive child care.
These are issues that our members are only too familiar with working in predominantly female professions that are undervalued and routinely dismissed by politicians of all hues.
There are also lessons to be learnt and applied in our campaign for ratios in the public health system.
The first lesson is that we can win. But we need the same grit, determination and stamina that our aged care members have shown. We need to be engaged. We need to stay the course.
The second lesson is that we should have confidence in what we are asking for. Federal Labor didn’t adopt our aged care solutions in an act of altruism. They adopted our solutions because they are the right policies to fix what is a completely broken sector. Aged care is mainly funded by taxpayers’ money and that money should be spent on care.
The third lesson is, like it or not, we have to engage in the political process. We need to convince governments, no matter who they are, that as frontline workers we understand the problems in the public health system and we are central to the solution.
The main argument we are confronted with when dealing with either the Liberals or Labor is the cost of our solutions, especially ratios. They always say they cost too much and they can’t afford it.
The pandemic blew away that specious argument. The cost of not resourcing health properly cost the economy billions of dollars.
Even prior to COVID there was a wealth of empirical research that showed that resourcing health properly was a cost saver.
When Queensland implemented ratios the government commissioned research to track their cost to the Queensland budget. That research showed a cost saving of $80 million in their first year of operation. More importantly 145 lives were saved and nearly 30,000 hospital days were avoided.
This research was consistent with numerous other studies around the world.
It would be a mistake for any government to think that COVID is a one-off. The prospect of future pandemics is real, even inevitable. There are health consequences from climate change that will also increase the demand on public health.
In NSW we will have an election early next year. Before then we need to convince all politicians that we have solutions to the crisis in public health in this state and they need to listen to us.
Implementing ratios will undoubtedly be better for the health of the NSW community but they will also be better for the state’s economy.