Public hospital members step up in support
As The Lamp goes to print Japara announced the proposed changes were no longer to go ahead. The staffing at all Japara facilities is an ongoing concern to the ANMF. The residents’ families say staffing is still inadequate to ensure safe resident care and wish to continue fighting with the nurses.
When Albury and District nursing home staff were threatened with dismissal if they went public about looming hours cuts, NSWNMA members at Albury Base Hospital stepped into the breach.
Seven Albury Base Hospital members, including six from mental health unit Nolan House, joined a rally outside Japara’s Albury nursing home to support their aged care colleagues.
They waved placards alongside the busy road and collected signatures on a nationwide nurses’ petition calling for mandatory ratios in aged care.
Catherine Winchester, NSWNMA branch president at Nolan House, said members believed the public deserved to be told about the threat to nursing hours and resident care.
“We are a strong group and one of our biggest bugbears is management not allowing staff to have free speech,” she said.
“When we found out that aged care workers were not allowed to have a voice because their jobs were threatened, we decided to stand up and support them.”
Catherine reported a positive response to the rally from passers-by and family members arriving for a meeting inside the nursing home.
“Most people know from personal experience or friends of friends that there is understaffing and that nursing home staff were really pushed.
“They were appalled that staff numbers could be cut even further.
“Most of them could relay stories to you about someone they know in a poor state in a nursing home. They were disgusted to hear that it would get worse as a result of nursing hours being cut.”
Management block out rally
Inside the nursing home, management pulled down the window blinds – presumably so people inside could not see the rally. They also called the police, who sat in a van nearby.
“After a while the police drove off, giving us a toot and thumbs up,” she said.
“Talk about wasting police time – we were loud and vocal, but we were not dangerous.
“We knew as long as we didn’t go onto nursing home land we weren’t breaking any law.”
Catherine worked in aged care for more than three years until a resident’s sad passing prompted her resignation.
It was dinnertime and Catherine was scrambling to care for 14 residents by herself. One of them, an old lady, was dying.
“I wanted to sit with her and hold her hand, so I rang the manager and asked him to send someone to assist me with the other residents,” she said.
“He told me to leave the old lady and do my job.
“It took four hours for her to pass, which is not a long time – four hours when someone could have sat with her and held her hand.
“She was a country and western fan and all I could do was put on one of her cassette tapes, a Charlie Pride album.
“During that time, I was trying to toilet and feed the other residents and all I could think of was that old lady.
“Now and then I ran back to her room and checked on her and I kept the doctor updated. When I heard the music stop, I’d run back in and change it.
“After she passed, I had 45 minutes to wash her, change her nightie and lay her out, ready for the undertaker.
“I thought, this is the last thing I can do for this woman; make sure she’s clean before they come and take her.
“The residents didn’t get their evening showers that night because there wasn’t time.
“That night I decided to walk away from aged care and I never went back.”
Catherine says the experience “will live with me forever. I don’t believe anyone should leave this earth on their own. Management could have prevented that if they had been prepared to authorise another nurse to come in.”
She describes her experience of working in aged care as “like being on a production line”.
“I was going home feeling guilty because I hadn’t had time to properly care for someone.”
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