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Fears of personal care workers replacing nurses rise as nursing role cuts are announced

Almost a dozen nursing positions could be at risk throughout three Bundaberg aged care facilities, raising fears from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) that specialist aged care nurses will be replaced with personal care workers.

Concerns have been raised about personal carers taking over nurses in giving out basic medications (Source: Shutterstock)

Queensland’s largest care provider, Blue Care, has reportedly claimed that a $1.2 billion reduction in federal funding is the reason why they may drop up to 11 nurses and reduce the rostered hours of other registered and enrolled nurses at their facilities in Millbank, Pioneer and Riverlea.

Spokesperson for Uniting Care Queensland says, “After reviewing Blue Care’s facilities in Bundaberg, it was clear the current staffing model was not sustainable.

“More than ever before, we need to operate our services in a sustainable way, if we don’t we are at risk of not being able to respond to community need and expectation.”

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas says the ANMF is concerned that as well as the job cuts, Blue Care will replace specialist aged care nurses with less-qualified personal care workers in administering critical medication to more than 280 residents.

“...we are terribly disappointed that Blue Care is following down this slippery slope, cutting hundreds of nursing hours for vulnerable aged care residents, many of whom have complex care needs and medication regimes,” Ms Thomas says.

In an open letter to the public, Secretary of the Queensland Nursing and Midwifery Union Beth Mole has also expressed some ‘very real concerns’ for the wellbeing of Blue Care residents in Bundaberg.

She also states that on the same day as nursing job cuts were announced at the three facilities, Blue Care management announced Personal Carers would soon become responsible for administering and monitoring ‘often complex combinations of medications’.

She states that while “Personal Carers provide a valuable assistive role in aged care...with just six hours training and limited knowledge of pharmacology, they cannot safely administer or monitor the effects of resident medications.”

The Blue Care spokesperson states that changes to the facilities practices “include training Personal Carers to assist in providing basic medications to residents, a practice used widely in aged care facilities across Australia.” And reaffirms that “There is no basis to the claims that this is an unsafe practice [and] higher risk medications will continue to be administered by Registered Nurses in our facilities.”

Ms Thomas says the recent decisions by Blue Care and Southern Cross Care to cut nursing hours will only exacerbate the current crisis in aged care.

She says the ANMF is extremely concerned that these providers are ‘blatantly ignoring’ the findings of a recent Senate Enquiry; the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and evidence from ANMF members working in aged care, that inadequate staffing levels are resulting in ever-increasing missed-care episodes and abuse and neglect of the elderly.

“With all this evidence showing how the elderly are at risk, it’s disgraceful that certain providers are going ahead with these massive cuts to nursing hours then trying to pass the buck on to the Federal Government,” Ms Thomas says.

“Unless the Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt steps in and puts a stop to it, then there’s little doubt other aged care providers will get in on the act and start sacking nurses and cutting rostered nursing hours at their facilities.


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