The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has renewed calls for nurse-to-patient ratios, after sanctions were placed on a Berry aged care facility.
Berry’s Bupa aged care facility will be forced to turn away new residents for the next six months, after the The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency has identified issues with non-compliance at the facility, which are yet to be released publicly.
But Nurses and Midwives Association general secretary Brett Holmes said the issues came down to poor working conditions for the facility’s nurses.
“Many aged care providers are hiring less nurses,” he said.
“From 2003 to 2016, we’ve seen a 13 per cent reduction in qualified nursing staff working full-time in nursing homes while there was a 40 per cent increase in the number of residents needing ‘high care’.”
In its apology to residents and families, Bupa Berry said it would create a dedicated recruitment team, to add more employees to the Bupa Berry facility.
Mr Holmes said aged care homes were struggling to find full time staff due to low wages.
“Nurses and carers are on average paid 15 per cent below comparative jobs in public health system employment and the aged care sector competes with this sector for professional staff such as registered and enrolled nurses and allied health professionals,” he said.
“Effective recruitment requires a recognition of safe staffing levels and decent pay.”
Bupa Berry is the fifth Bupa aged care facility in NSW to have sanctions imposed on it this year. These sanctions have partly been due to the workload pressures nurses are facing, as well as bullying according to Mr Holmes.
“At some other Bupa sites around NSW members have expressed concerns to us regarding increased workload pressures following cuts to nursing hours, ongoing bullying and harassment and serious safety risks arising from violent incidents,” he said.
According to the union, the only way to guarantee residents are receiving the best care possible is to implement nurse-to-patient ratios.
“Chronic under-staffing has seen a 400 per cent increase in preventable deaths of elderly Australians in residential aged care, with hundreds dying from falls, choking and suicide,” Mr Holmes said.
“Aged care nurses, residents and their families have waited a very long time for action and there is more than enough evidence pointing to the need for more nurses.”
Specific details about Bupa Berry's non-compliance will be released after residents and relatives are briefed.