Aged care is a challenging environment, says Blue Care.
Aged care is a challenging environment, says Blue Care. AlexRaths

Elderly lose 1540 hours of fortnightly care in staff cuts

THE Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union is ramping up the fight against staff cuts at Blue Care's Bundaberg facilities.

Both nurse and personal carer hours are being heavily slashed, according to the QNMU's regional team leader Auriel Robinson.

Ms Robinson said Registered Nurses and Enrolled Nurses were set to have their time reduced by 880 hours a fortnight across Bundaberg's three Blue Care facilities.

Personal carers and nursing assistants will work 660 less hours per fortnight.

"It's that much less care that will be provided each fortnight," Ms Robinson said.

Ms Robinson says staff have been attending meetings to determine their wishes in regards to retaining their workload, reductions in hours or possible redundancies.

"They're also introducing a new model of care where they're going to get personal carers giving medication," she said.

"What we're saying to families is they need to clearly ask that their medications be administered by Registered Nurses or Enrolled Nurses.

"The community needs to make sure Blue Care knows they don't want their relatives' care jeopardised and that they don't want personal carers administering medications."

The NewsMail can reveal Blue Care recently distributed a letter to families of residents, stating that media coverage on the staff cuts had involved "misleading" information from unions to cause fear.

Blue Care has told families that the care of their loved ones would not be compromised amid a "challenging financial environment".

Blue Care has faced widespread concern following meetings with staff last month where nurses heard jobs would be cut by the equivalent of 11 full-time positions.

The organisation has since been advertising positions vacant for personal carers.

While announcements of cuts to nursing staff have come as shocking news to workers, residents and families, talk of changes to Blue Care's structure are not new.

In 2016, Blue Care's parent organisation Uniting Care posted to their website about the challenging environment in aged care.

It's the same year Blue Care bought five aged care facilities across the state.

The release, titled "one of Australia's largest non-profit realigns for success", cited significant changes in health and community care while mentioning the organisation's revenue of more than a billion dollars.

UnitingCare Queensland CEO Anne Cross said a new business model for the organisation would focus on "business streams" that would respond to the "highly competitive" aged care sector.

"The proposed new structure allows us to be on the front foot; to truly be a customer-led organisation," she said.

"Our revenue exceeds one billion dollars and we touch the lives of thousands of individuals and families every day of the year through our well established brands of Blue Care, Lifeline, The Wesley Hospital and St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane."

Last year Blue Care purchased one new and four existing aged care facilities across Queensland.

A new facility at Mt Louisa was bought for $17.5 million.

The non-profit picked up Hervey Bay's Fraser Shores facility for between $70m and $80m as well as Argyle Gardens in Bundaberg and Carlyle Gardens facilities in Townsville and Mackay.

The purchases were made in 2016, the same year The Courier-Mail reported that kitchen staff at a Blue Care facility in Wynnum had been instructed to "reuse" and "reheat" leftover food.

A note addressed to kitchen staff included a section which stated "all leftover food items should be getting sent back to the main kitchen, so the cooks can determine if we can reuse".

Blue Care told The Courier-Mail the note had been misinterpreted and that the purpose of the instruction was to determine the amount of food wastage.

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