Last chance for aged care
This federal election is an opportunity to fix the fundamental weaknesses in the aged care sector. All NSWNMA members can play a role as we pressure all political parties to address the issues we have been campaigning on for more than a decade.
What has come to light over the last two COVID-filled years about the state of aged care has been terrifying.
Even before COVID, the aged care sector was in a profound crisis. The consequences of that neglect have been tragic and deadly.
Since the pandemic arrived on our shores, over 15,000 aged care residents have caught the virus and more than 1700 of them have died from COVID. Over 18,000 staff have been infected.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was clear about the fundamental weaknesses of the system, which left residents and staff exposed.
“Quality and safety cannot be achieved without the sector having enough staff with the skills and time to care,” it said in its final report.
It recommended that every residential facility should have at least one registered nurse on site 24 hours a day.
This effectively endorsed the NSWNMA’s stand on the issue prosecuted over more than a decade.
A government incapable of learning
Into the third year of the COVID crisis, despite the warning signs, cautionary tales and failures, the Morrison government has consistently failed to learn the most obvious lessons.
Inconceivably, more than 700 aged care residents died in the first six weeks of this year.
NSWNMA members and residents are still exposed and vulnerable to new variants such as Omicron and subvariant BA-2, said Assistant General Secretary Shaye Candish.
“Our members are reporting a staffing crisis, a lack of access to suitable PPE and substandard infection-control practices. Some aged care facilities are being forced to ration rapid antigen tests, only using them every 72 hours because of limitations to supply,” she said.
Shaye said that after decades of commissions, inquiries and reports, it’s now or never if real change is to be won in the sector.
“It is only nurses’ commitment and goodwill that has held our aged care system together, and it will be our collective actions that can bring change.
“Without pressure we won’t get the changes we need to see, just another level of bandaids. We need to make sure all the political parties understand that this is a voting issue in their communities in this federal election,” she said.
The election should be a referendum on aged care
Shaye said the ANMF and the NSWNMA have started a paid advertising campaign leading up to the election, highlighting the parlous state of the sector and presenting our solutions to fix it.
Members will also be active on the ground and in social media, pushing our case out to the community, she said.
“Nurses have been vocal and active for a long time fighting and advocating for residents and their families. COVID has confirmed the truth of that campaign. Now we need to make one last push to force whoever becomes the government to do the right thing by our elderly.”
We are not alone. Many others in the sector see the election as a time for accountability and change.
Aged care researcher Dr Sarah Russell said the “lack of leadership” and the “hands-off approach” of the federal government and its regulator during the pandemic “has had heartbreaking consequences for many residents and families around the nation”.
“Sooner or later, our federal government must be held to account for the numerous preventable tragedies that have occurred in the aged care sector.