"I'M THAT WOMAN": Helena Brabet with the paperwork including the dozens of complaints she has written to TriCare Bundaberg before she "gave up" last year. Eliza Goetze

Bundaberg stories spark 'David and Goliath' aged care fight

ORDINARY Australians are uniting to fight major aged care providers after a story broken by the NewsMail went national.

In what the Queensland Nurses' and Midwives' Union has described as a "David versus Goliath-style battle", the families of elderly Australians have launched a petition, contacted political parties and approached the media in a bid to end elder neglect in aged care facilities.

Woodgate resident Heather Mansell Brown, who spoke out about the care of her husband Bill in a Bundaberg home, has launched a petition on change.org, Safe Staffing In Aged Care Now, that has gathered more than 33,200 signatures.

Union secretary Beth Mohle said relatives and residents throughout the country had reported deaths, broken limbs, dehydration and poor nutrition as a direct result of dangerously low aged care staffing.

 

TRICARE: Toby Hewerdine in bed at Tricare. His relatives say more nurses are needed in aged care to make sure the elderly are looked after properly.
TRICARE: Toby Hewerdine in bed at Tricare. His relatives say more nurses are needed in aged care to make sure the elderly are looked after properly.

The union has harnessed some of these stories to hammer home their campaign demanding minimum staffing ratios in aged care facilities.

Ms Mohle said chronic understaffing meant residents were suffering unnecessarily in almost every Australian community - despite the fact they paid good money and aged care providers recently reported profits of almost $1 billion.

"What is happening in aged care facilities throughout Australia is shocking," Ms Mohle said.

"These facilities are making incredible sums of money from their elderly residents yet they are not providing anywhere near adequate care.

"In addition they are not adequately held accountable for the lives of our elderly loved ones, many who are suffering enormously due to the lack of nurses, nutrition and quality of life.''

 

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\"LIKE PRISON FOOD\": An example of a meal served to Bill Brown at TriCare Bundaberg, photographed by his wife Heather Brown who identified it as steamed fish \"floating in water\". Contributed

Read the NewsMail's coverage:

Ms Mohle said aged care providers were making money but did not provide adequate staff, nurses, personal care or nutrition.

In 2016 the Aged Care Financing Authority reported Australian aged care providers made more than $1.77 billion and turned a net profit of $907 million.

Despite rapidly increasing profit margins, few Australian aged care facilities have a registered nurse on site at all times, according to the union.

Some Federal Government accredited facilities use "virtual nurses" - nurses located up to several hundred kilometres away at sister facilities - to provide potentially life-saving medical advice via the phone.

 

TriCare Bundaberg Aged Care Residence.
TriCare Bundaberg Aged Care Residence. Mike Knott BUN200217TRICARE10

At the moment there are no laws that require an RN be on site at all times or that an aged care provider make their carer or nurse numbers public.

The Federal Government's peak monitoring body the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency does not require an RN be on site 24/7 to meet residents' medical needs.

Ms Mansell Brown launched a her petition on February 23 after the NewsMail broke the story of her claims that Bill Brown suffered avoidable injuries while in care.

She said poor staffing levels, not staff, were to blame.

"The staff are all trying so hard to look after residents but when Bill is left all night in a soaking incontinence pad, when he's left bleeding, it's obvious there simply aren't enough staff rostered on to look after him and other residents,'' Ms Mansell Brown said.

Ms Mansell Brown's petition now has more 33,200 signatures and last night featured on Channel Ten's The Project - watch here.


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