Albanese Government must stop Enrolled Nurse sackings in aged care

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler Photo: Chris Hopkins

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is calling on the Albanese Government to urgently act to stop greedy aged care providers from sacking highly-trained Enrolled Nurses (EN) and replacing them with lower-paid personal care workers (PCW) in nursing homes.

In Tasmania, Southern Cross Care is making ENs redundant, substituting them with extended care workers. Some providers in South Australia are also substituting ENs with a combination of Registered Nurses (RN) and Personal Care Workers (PCW), whilst in NSW some ENs are reportedly being offered care worker contracts.

The providers claim the ‘new model of care’ is in response to the Federal Government’s policy of mandated minimum care minutes in nursing homes, with facilities required to meet an average case-mix-adjusted care minute target of 200 minutes per resident per day from RNs, ENs and PCWs. It includes 40 minutes with an RN, but it does not specifically state the minutes of care to be delivered by ENs – the loophole being exploited by the aged care providers in making the ENs redundant.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the providers in question are ‘gaming the system’, in what is undoubtedly a cynical cost-cutting exercise, despite receiving a significant funding increase from the Albanese Government to implement its long-awaited reforms in aged care. For example, Southern Cross Care Tasmania’s Total Revenue for 2020-21 was $81.1 million – 63% of that Revenue – $51 million – is from annual Federal Government subsidies. 1

“It’s unconscionable that these taxpayer-funded aged care providers are manipulating the Government’s reforms to sack frontline ENs, especially given we’re in the midst of a rapidly-escalating COVID wave, and just a month before Christmas. ENs were among the healthcare workers lauded as heroes throughout the pandemic, but now they’re being disrespected and discarded by operators trying to boost their bottomline,” Ms Butler said.

“Providers certainly know that the Royal Commission recommended more qualified nurses in aged care, not less. The Albanese Government’s reforms aim to improve care in nursing homes by ensuring an appropriate skills mix of RNs and ENs and PCWs, but without mandated requirements specifying skill mix percentages, providers are gaming the system to dilute the skill mix. The reforms will mean nothing and the crisis in aged care will only worsen.

“Our hard-working ENs are now on a slippery-slope and unless the Government intervenes and mandates a commitment regarding skill mix percentages or RN/EN/PCA care minutes, we fear there’ll be even more sackings across the sector.

“Already-exhausted RNs in Tasmania are being loaded-up with the extra work of ENs and are threatening to walk away from their jobs – and ultimately, it’s elderly nursing residents who’ll suffer. Enough is enough. The ANMF and our members are urging the Prime Minister and Ministers for Health and Aged Care to intervene before even more nurses are lost from aged care.”

[1] Annual Report

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