Royal Commission’s aged care report imminent
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is due to deliver its final report on the experiences of residents in the sector, the management of residential homes, and recommendations for reforms by 26 February.
The Lamp spoke to RN Angelin Maharaj about her hopes for the sector in the wake of the commission.
The commission should mandate minimum staffing levels
A system that puts profits before residents’ needs has to change, says Angelin Maharaj.
During the COVID lockdowns of aged care homes, admissions and bed numbers at the large high-care nursing facility in western Sydney where RN Angelin Maharaj works dropped noticeably.
The facility’s operators seized the opportunity to reduce staff. “An order came in from head office to not replace the first three AiNs who might call in sick on any one day,” Angelin explains.
“We were not hiring any new staff, and if RNs were sick or on holidays, staff not working on the floor had to fill in. The ACFI [the Aged Care Funding Instrument] staff member, who is an RN, had to come onto the floor.
“Staff are burning out from overwork. If they call in and can’t be replaced, it then puts more pressure on everyone else. We have been seeing it even more during the pandemic.”
Over the seven years working at the 135-bed nursing home, Angelin has seen a steady decline in staff hours. She is hoping that the final report of the aged care royal commission will mandate minimum staffing levels.
Since she started work at the centre, Angelin says that the hours of the 20 AiNs on staff have been reduced, with five now working shifts just four hours long, even though the work has become more demanding.
Angelin has also seen more newly qualified RNs being thrown into specialist care environments without sufficient mentoring and training. “When I started, we employed many qualified RNs, year three and four and above, but more recently we are hiring all the new grads, and they have no knowledge of psychotropic medications or how to cater for all the dementia care and palliative care. We need to educate and mentor the new grads, but we don’t have the experienced RNs to do that.”
Angelin is hoping the royal commission will address staff qualifications levels, and mandate “qualified RNs in all facilities 24/7. I know there are some facilities that don’t have RNs on a nightshift. If RNs aren’t there, AiNs have to administer medication, which is dangerous when there is no-one there to oversee them.”
“We have to abandon the Aged Care Act 1997, which has allowed the needs of residents to come second to making a profit. I can see what the residents are paying now, and it is not reaching the floor. We are all going to be old one day. We all need to raise our voices to protect vulnerable residents.”