Aged care must become an election issue


Lateline carried another report this week on mistreatment of aged care residents, leading the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) to renew calls for the major political parties and key independents to make aged care an election issue.

Federal Secretary Lee Thomas also reiterated the ANMF’s zero tolerance approach to any form of mental or physical abuse of older, vulnerable people in aged care facilities. “The allegations raised on Tuesday night’s ‘Lateline’ program were truly distressing – now is the time for bipartisan action so no one else suffers,” she said.

Emma Alberici presents ‘Lateline’

You can watch the Lateline program or read the transcipt  of interviews here.

As part of its aged care election agenda, the ANMF is seeking commitment from the ALP, Coalition, Greens and key Independents, on identified solutions, including:

  • A registered nurse on site 24/7 at all stand-alone aged care facilities
  • Minimum staffing levels and skill mix available to meet the needs of nursing home residents, particularly those who are frail and require complex care or have dementia
  • An annual review of aged care funding to ensure that wages paid to aged care staff are the same as those in the public health system
  • A national registration scheme for all AINs who provide nursing care
  • Enhanced transparency and accountability in funding to ensure that every dollar spent is focused on the quality of care received by residents in aged care.

After we carried a story on the first Lateline report, many  nurses commented on the Nurse Uncut and Aged Care Nurses Facebook pages. Here is some of what you had to say:

Not enough staff, adequate supervision of care provided, knowledge, experience … all due to lack of adequate funding, it is a disgrace. Majority of aged care nurses are wonderful, they are not valued or supported, they do not receive the same pay…

– I don’t believe it’s due to lack of funding at all, it’s about the proprietors of these facilities cutting back on the delivery of care in order to increase profits. Why do you think they employ ACFI Coordinators? To wring the last cent they possibly can from the Government in order to line their own pockets. I’m a Palliative Care nurse specialist who went into Aged Care to make a difference but was met with obstacles left, right and centre because it is NOT about providing a high standard of care. I arrived with good intentions and was cut off at the knees while dying residents screamed in pain and experienced all manner of suffering. Try to introduce best practice and you’ll be booted out through the front door so fast your head will spin.

– Aged care is low on the priority list for our government despite the need of this health care sector. We have poor staff ratios, often one RN to over 100 residents. Care workers who have eight weeks of training and then expected to go out and work with our elderly. Often these individuals are from our culturally and linguistically diverse population as wages are so poor. (You can get more for sitting on your bottom scanning gtoceries at Aldi.) So it is no surprise that issues arise. This just the tip of the iceberg.

– Lack of nursing staff, lack of morals and respect for patients and staff, patient ratios are too high and of course lack of money and time to give proper care.

–  It does not matter how long a child remains in hospital they are not called ‘bed-blockers’! Unless as a society we are prepared to invest in older people then we should not throw stones at one industry. We are all failing – some more than others and elder abuse should never be tolerated. In the public sector there is mandatory child abuse education and reporting, maybe something similar should occur. But then again with so much neglect of older Australians in the public sector, the reporting would be through the roof!

– It’s really an area that you have to have a passion for; nurses need more specialised training for aged care, instead of one RN and a handful of AINs trying to get things done … and I am NOT having a go at anyone who works in aged care…

– I am an AIN in an aged care facility and the pressure is so great because of staffing issues. These people deserve to be looked after with loving care but unfortunately the patient to nurse ratio does not allow this. The AINs are pushed to the limit, stressed and run down. It’s about time the government looked into this situation and introduced mandatory nurse to patient ratios otherwise nothing is going to change, it is only going to get worse.

Tell us about your experience in comments below.



  1. I’m one of the RNs who appeared on the Lateline program 13/8 and whilst what went to air was helpful in exposing the neglect, abuse, bullying and exploitation that is rife in the aged care sector, in reality the report was only the tip of the iceberg! For 4 years I’ve attempted to affect change by going through internal investigative processes, followed by emails and discussions with Head Office/s and finally, a formal written complaint to the Aged Care Complaint Scheme … all to no avail. In fact I have been discredited, made an example of and persecuted by my employers to the point I’ve had no option but to resign, albeit unwillingly.
    But listen to this … I also provided photocopied documentation that was absolutely irrefutable as evidence, but was NOT accepted because of legal ramifications. The ACCS actually went to the trouble of giving the facility notice of intention to investigate, hence progress notes went missing, were rewritten (forged) or were wiped from the computer. Eighteen (yes 18) complaints in all and every single one was “unsubstantiated”. I was in attendance in each instance, had witnesses present and had documented everything in the resident’s notes, but the facility had covered their tracks perfectly, right down to providing staff who denied any knowledge (even though I’d provided emails to the Manager naming carers who could support my claims). My resignation was forced by trumped up allegations and I have since been black-listed. So much for protecting whistle-blowers! I became the guilty party, yes, guilty for telling the truth!
    The manager at the time had taken me aside earlier in the piece and said, “you must NOT write these incidents in the patient’s history because of the potential damage that could be done if the Department made an unannounced visit. Write them on a piece of paper and slip it under my door.” I looked at her with absolute disbelief and replied, “Why? So you can put it through the shredder?”
    In my experience adverse events that indicated any fault or negligence on their behalf were swept under the carpet and never addressed. I was even told “we operate on policy and procedure and if you don’t like it then there’s the door!” When I voiced my opinion that these were in place only to protect the company’s reputation and to lay an acceptable paper trail to ensure funding, I was immediately placed under scrutiny in the hope of finding a reason to legally sack me. I have borne witness to:
    1. sexual abuse
    2. verbal abuse
    3 physical violence
    4 emotional torment/abuse
    5 residents screaming in pain due to not having adequate orders or refusal to administer suitable medication
    6 overdosing of residents
    7 life threatening medication errors
    8 fractures that have been endured for weeks before being properly investigated
    9 decubitus ulcers that have formed as a result of the manager telling night staff not to provide pressure area care overnight.
    10 fungating cancers that were never documented or reported
    11 refusal of doctors to attend when residents have been imminently terminal and in distress
    12 theft from residents
    13 starvation of residents due to time constraints on carers
    14 deaths of a suspicious nature that should have been referred to Coroner
    15 towels used instead of appropriate incontinence aids
    16 inadequate supply of wound products
    18 lies, information withheld from families, misrepresented “facts” in order to protect the company from loss of reputation and/or litigation
    19 hastened death
    20 long, protracted, agonising deaths
    21 provision of cheap, unappetizing meals with little or no nutritional value eg. 2 cocktail frankfurts and a dessert-spoon of mashed potato.
    22 carers operating well outside their scope of practice with catastrophic outcomes because of inadequate qualified nursing staff.

    And that’s just for starters! There are those nurses/carers who work in aged care because they consider it an easy ride and already have other full-time jobs with part-time work in nursing homes being a bit of pocket money. They’re there for the paycheck, nothing more. I’ve even known particular RNs to switch off their phone and lounge in the cafe of the facility reading the newspaper (and NOT during their breaks either). Other nurses are sponsored and have not even undertaken a grad year. Basically, they have minimal practical and assessment skills and the times I’ve had to take control and save their butts are incalculable. One young RN didn’t even know how to use an insulin pen and then when shown, loaded it with 40 units instead of 4. Another double dosed a resident with 80mg of Oxycontin because she hadn’t entered it the FIRST time in the DD book or had it checked! Honestly, the stories I could tell would have the politicians’ hair standing on end, but it would seem they don’t consider care of our elderly to be a priority. At least not until they or a loved one requires residential care! Everyone …a nd I do mean EVERYONE, whether in one of the caring professions or not, MUST speak out and raise their voices, expose and disclose that which they have seen firsthand. So many of my colleagues have expressed concern about doing this because of the risk to their jobs. Yes indeed, we have been menaced by our employers AND many of my former workmates have been threatened with dismissal if they are found to be associating with me out of work hours! Can you believe it? Sadly, it’s all true.
    Aged care providers are NOT in business because they are altruistic souls, it’s a lucrative, profit-focused venture; a way to exploit the elderly in our society for their own financial gain. It is completely delusional to believe otherwise. To make matters worse, the Government is in collaboration with these providers because THEY have abrogated responsibility for the aged by privatising the sector! They have washed their hands of our elderly, excepting token gestures such as implementation of the ACCS, which is nothing more than a toothless tiger! In short, it’s a disgraceful situation all round and sadly, what disappoints me most is the lack of support from nursing colleagues who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk.
    I for one did not pursue a career in nursing to compromise the values, beliefs and principles that inspired me to join the profession in the first place. If you love nursing and take pride in the position of trust that has been bestowed on you, SPEAK OUT NOW!

    • Congratulations and well done Lynette Dickens – I couldn’t have said it better myself and I couldn’t agree with you more. I truly can’t imagine why people are not making the aged care system the big deal it should be. I just graduated last year and have only been working as an Enrolled Nurse in a large aged care facility for under a year and quite honestly, nothing shocks me any more. I gave up trying to find strong-minded, experienced, dedicated, honest nurses from who I could learn and improve my practice and feel very jaded and disillusioned. I have seen families and staff try to change things (and the good AINs out there are the true heroes of aged care) but the complaints and accreditation agencies are toothless tigers indeed and there is no support from the inside or outside to change the system. But on the positive side, thank you again for speaking out – you should be our advocate, our spokesperson! I really admire you and would have loved to work with you… I would have learned a lot!

  2. Thank you Annie for your kind words, I truly appreciate your support. The last 4 years have been extremely difficult for me on so many levels, but at last the public are beginning to sit up and take notice … not before time either! Sadly, I don’t think I will ever nurse again. I’m absolutely fed up with being persecuted and I’m disenchanted by the way too many of my colleagues have collaborated with the facilities, succumbed to pressure to meet their employer’s unconscionable demands, betrayed the trust bestowed on the nursing profession by the public, engaged in horizontal violence against their own and compromised their principles. I honestly believe if they had spoken out and done their bit to expose the rorts and poor conditions in nursing homes from the time of privatisation, positive change would have been forthcoming long before this. In the meantime, many of our elderly have suffered unnecessarily and that is a tremendous sadness to me as the daughter of aged parents and just as importantly, as a nurse.
    It’s obvious from your comment that you are committed to nursing … good for you! Hold fast to your standards, maintain your integrity and don’t be afraid to do what you know is right and in the best interest of those for whom you care! x


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