The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) is urgently calling on the federal government to direct private providers to increase their nursing, personal care, cleaning and support staff numbers following the growing cases of COVID-19 outbreaks in Melbourne’s nursing homes.
The call comes as some Victorian aged care facilities and aged care groups planned to cut nursing and care hours despite an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in several Melbourne aged care facilities.
Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, also under stage three restriction, have approximately 450 residential aged care facilities.
At the time of reporting, seven aged care facilities had reported outbreaks of COVID-19 with145 cases linked to the facilities across the districts.
“Private aged care facilities needed more nurses and personal care workers to care for residents before the pandemic, they must increase clinical and personal staff now that we have increased community transmission of the virus,” ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.
“It beggars belief that just last week ANMF was representing members who were having their hours cut,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.
The ANMF is also seeking special paid leave for aged care nurses, carers and other staff who must isolate as well as reimbursement for aged care staff who may have to relinquish shifts at other aged care workplaces where they are also employed. The union suggested alternatively, their primary employer can provide them with additional shifts at their workplace to boost care requirements for residents and their families.
According to the ANMF (Vic Branch), the Andrews government’s Safe Patient Care Act 2015 mandates minimum nurse to resident ratios for every shift in public aged care wards and facilities. The Act requires one nurse for every seven residents, plus a nurse in charge on the morning shift; one nurse for every eight residents, plus a nurse in charge on the afternoon shift; and one nurse for every 15 residents on the night shift.
Yet the Federal Aged Care Act 1997 only requires private aged care providers ‘to maintain an adequate number of appropriately skilled staff to ensure that the care needs of care recipients are met’. ‘Adequate’ and ‘appropriately skilled’ are undefined and unenforceable.
“If you have a loved one in a private nursing home, I urge you to ask your facility how many nurses and personal care workers are rostered for the morning, afternoon and night shift, including how many are rostered on short shifts and weekends,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.
Meanwhile, the Victorian government has announced a worker support payment for those that need to self-isolate.
Under the scheme, a one-off payment of $1,500 is available to workers who are unable to work during their isolation, have no income during this period, and are not entitled to any paid sick leave, special pandemic leave or other income support.
The government will also ensure that as soon as a person is tested, they will be eligible for a $300 support payment as long as they meet the eligibility of the existing scheme.
“We know that having to isolate can mean missing work– and no one should be making the choice between their health and putting food on the table – that’s why we’re making sure those who need our support can get it,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.