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Thousands of nurses and carers working in aged care are being bullied and harassed and believe they are becoming ‘scapegoats’ for the systemic failures currently plaguing the sector, a national survey of residential aged care staff released today has uncovered.

Conducted by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), the National Aged Care Survey 2019 – Final Report exposes heartbreaking stories from aged care staff around the country confirming how decades of inaction by governments and providers has compromised the ability to ensure safe, quality care to residents.

“Bullying, intimidation and scapegoating from management, which reduces everyone’s confidence which in turn can also affects how we work for our residents,” one account said.

“Shockingly low levels of staff, all the time and especially at night and on weekends,” another disclosed.

Over 2,700 aged care workers took part in the survey, which was undertaken earlier this year and builds on the union’s 2016 National Aged Care Survey and aligns with its ongoing national campaign for safe staffing in aged care, Ratios for aged care, make them law NOW.

Findings from the latest national survey show the state of aged care has worsened since 2016 and that nurses and carers feel more voiceless than ever, especially in the wake of greater scrutiny being placed on the sector due to evidence unveiled during the Aged Care Royal Commission.

Staffing numbers, skills mix, staff training/qualifications and experience lead the key concerns for nurses and carers working in aged care negatively affecting their ability to provide safe, quality care for residents, according to the survey.

The main concerns outlined by aged care staff in the survey showed:

  • 90% believe there is inadequate staffing to provide basic care to residents
  • 61% noted a lack of experience/qualifications regarding staff
  • 38% said there needs to be greater accountability regarding Commonwealth funding
  • 84% said legislated minimum staffing levels would improve aged care services
  • 36% listed the quality/amount of food given to residents

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the survey findings present a bleak picture of aged care in Australia and demonstrate clear inaction by governments and providers to address the sector’s longstanding problems.

“Since our last survey in 2016, nurses and carers describe the situation in aged care as one approaching despair – with the feelings of desperation most acutely affecting aged care workers themselves,” Ms Butler said.

“They identified inadequate staffing levels, staff qualifications and experience, and the subsequent inability to meet both basic and higher clinical care standards as their key concerns in aged care. There are simply not enough staff with the right mix of skills to care for the number and type of residents in aged care.”

Ms Butler said nurses and carers had become ‘the scapegoats’ for the abuse and neglect in aged care exposed through the current Aged Care Royal Commission and last year’s ABC Four Corners investigation.

“They [aged care staff] report being spat on in the street, abused in shopping centres, vilified in national and local media and blamed, harassed and bullied with a new intensity by their managers and employers,” Ms Butler said.

“They believe many aged care employers, managers and executives lack the necessary skills to run aged care facilities effectively so quickly resort to blaming staff for their own inadequacies.”

Ms Butler praised the aged care workforce for their dedication and commitment to residents in the face of a broken system.

“Right now, aged care workers are the only thing holding this broken system together and they want to be able to take pride in the work that they do, they want to give our elderly the best standard of care possible, and they want to be able to able to deliver that care in environments that are safe and supportive for themselves. But we’re not letting them do that.”

Ms Butler said the ANMF is calling on all political parties to make an election commitment to mandate minimum staffing levels for aged care immediately and to stop ignoring the pleas from nurses and carers on the frontline dealing with the devastating effects of chronic understaffing in Australia’s aged care system.

View the full survey –