With staffing levels in nursing homes for the aged dwindling to the point where it is putting the lives of the elderly at risk and could be seen as abuse, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has is launching a wide-spread public awareness campaign – “Ratios for aged care make them law. Now!”.
The campaign aims to protect the vulnerable, older residents of nursing homes by publicly highlighting the plight of the elderly and encouraging politicians of all parties to support the private member bill “Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients Bill) introduced last year by Senator Derryn Hinch. “Aged care is a national disgrace. It’s a crisis that shames us all,” said Annie Butler, acting Federal Secretary of the ANMF. “Our politicians must stand up for elderly Australians and make ratios law now.”
The ANMF emphasizes that there are fewer and fewer nurses and carers to look after the increasing numbers of nursing home residents. Supporting facts include the following:
- From 2003 to 2016, there was a 13% reduction in trained nursing staff working full-time in aged care facilities;
- Over the past 13 years there has been a 400% increase in preventable deaths in nursing homes, from falls, choking and suicides;
- Nursing home residents are receiving 2 hours 50 minutes of care per day from nurses and carers, well below the 4 hours 18 minutes they should be getting.
“Last year, owners of aged care facilities pocketed over $1 billion in profits while cutting staff,”
There are many situations where one registered nurse has to manage the care of more than 100 residents and where one carer has less than an hour available to feed, bathe, dress and mobilize 16 residents. This while the profits of aged care providers, funded by taxpayers, continue to rise. “Last year, owners of aged care facilities pocketed over $1 billion in profits while cutting staff,” emphasized Butler. It thus appears that the problem is not one of inadequate funding for aged care facilities but of severe understaffing – there should be a legal guarantee to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on the actual care of the elderly.
The official launch of the “Ratios for aged care make them law. Now!” campaign will take place on International Nurses’ Day on May 12 with local AFNM branches arranging events across the country. The promotion of the campaign was kickstarted on March 19, the day on which legislators were due to return to parliament, with a series of TV commercials as well as mobile billboards circulating the houses of parliament in Canberra.
The touching commercials did not use actors, but the voices of actual people involved in the aged care system describing their lived experiences – including a nursing home resident, a registered nurse, a nursing assistant, and a relative of a nursing home resident.
Promotional activity has been ongoing with regular press releases by the AFNM, posts on dedicated pages on social media and a website where nurses, as well as members of the public, can sign up for the campaign.