|Saturday, 23 January 2010 16:34 | Print page:|
How do they get away with it? Year after year we hear politicians and aged-care bureaucrats waffling on about "appropriate levels of care" – words that mean nothing at all and allow shonky aged-care providers to staff their homes with dangerously low levels of nurses and carers...
Those of us who hope that 2010 might bring better things for frail older people in residential care would do well to listen to the Minister for Ageing talking on Radio National about the non-existent minimum staffing/resident ratios. It is a lesson in the art of obfuscation to hear her dodge and duck and refuse to admit that there is no staff/resident ratio mandated for Australian aged-care homes.
The Aged Care Act 1997 came into being under the guardianship of Bronwyn Bishop, one of the early Ministers for Ageing in the previous Government. It should be to her enduring shame, that in this Act, which defines most aspects of aged care in Australia, no staffing levels were specified beyond the use of the weasel word, "appropriate".
Furthermore it is astounding that, for more than 10 years, Minister after Minister has refused to do anything about this outrageous situation that too often leaves vulnerable people bereft of the care that they need. How much longer are Australians going to put up with a situation where frail residents of aged-care homes are left unattended for long periods of time in lonely bedrooms and day rooms? How much longer are underpaid and undervalued aged-care workers going to struggle to provide even the most basic care for residents?
Here we are at the start of 2010 and those advocating for a more humane system of aged care are left banging on about the same old things – the same troubling issues! These include the fact that aged-care nurses are underpaid and undervalued, the fact that our aged-care homes have residents with higher care needs than ever before, that we have an ageing demographic and much more. Low staffing levels mean that more restraints – both physical and chemical – are used and that aged people with frail and brittle bones are more likely to have devastating falls. In fact, most of the problems facing residents and staff in aged-care homes come back to this very issue.
The first thing that Justine Elliot, Minister for Ageing, should do as she gets back to work this year is to stop talking meaningless jargon about "appropriate care" and to tell those who set themselves up to care for people at the end of life that they must have enough staff on duty to do the job and, in order to ensure that they do, legislate a minimum staff/resident ratio.
We welcome your comments on this article. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. We also require a working email address - not for publication, but for verification.