Nurses call for help, claim elderly residents face neglect
POTTSVILLE aged care nurses claim elderly residents are spending up to 18 hours in the same incontenance pads and being left unsupervised for hours due to chronic staff shortages.
Nurses at Bupa Aged Care Pottsville Beach were today crying out for help, calling for more staff to be urgently appointed to help them take care of residents at the Seabreeze facility.
They joined hundreds of stories similar to theirs making national headlines since the Federal Government announced a Royal Commission into aged care practices at residential aged care facilities.
Bupa Pottsville branch nurses threatened to walk out of the job today as part of strike action organised by the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA).
But after being warned by management their pay would be "docked four hours" if they protested, nurses who spoke to the Tweed Daily News did so on their own time during their 10-minute meal breaks, with some even coming in on their day off to cover staff who wanted to strike.
"We were told not to come down or we would be docked, even if we come down for 10 minutes on our meal break we would be docked four hours pay," staff member Jill West said.
"A lot of staff are feeling threatened and they're really scared they're going to lose their job. The roster lady has band-aids all over her fingers due to stress of trying to roster, she's going to fall apart."
Ms West said staff were constantly overworked, with some suffering deteriorating health they believe is caused by work-related pressure.
"(Management) don't listen to our concerns, we're constantly run off our feet," she said.
"There's a couple of staff members who have had strokes in the past 18 months due to stress.
"Medication isn't given here properly either. You look through their medication books and there's bits missing because staff don't have enough time and things aren't recorded.
"We don't get a proper handover. We just have to walk in and find there's a new resident there. There's no communication."
Assistant in Nursing (AIN) Georgia Meredith said her department was constantly under-staffed which was proving very stressful for both residents and staff.
"I'm in the dementia wing and we've only got three people to look after 22 residents who are all high care, none of them can look after themselves or shower themselves," Ms Meredith said.
"It also puts a lot of stress on residents because they're uncomfortable and that causes more behaviours for them because they don't know how to fix the problem.
"We've only got one staff member on at night who has to try to look after them and change pads by themselves. And it's not just the AINs that are stressed, it's also the cleaners and kitchen staff who are stressed. We're all trying to do our jobs."
The Nurses' Union
NSWNMA spokesperson Wayne Baxter said he'd tried contacting Bupa management to see if more staff could be employed to help with poor workplace practices but was told there wasn't a problem.
"We actually called on management to immediately implement extra staffing, particularly on night duty have an extra registered nurse and an extra two AINS until appropriate reviews of rosters and work health and safety risk assessments are undertaken," Mr Baxter said.
"But they've denied that, saying in their view the workplace health and safety review doesn't need to be undertaken and their staffing levels meet the requirements of the residents."
A spokesperson for Bupa Aged Care said the company welcomed conversations with their employees "on how we can continue to deliver quality care to our residents".
"Our staffing levels are rostered around the needs of our residents, especially the level of medical complexity involved," the spokesperson said.
"At Pottsville, we are confident we have the right number and mix of employees based on the current care requirements and acuity of our residents but have committed to closely monitor that mix and keep our employees and the union informed. As always, we encourage employees to raise any concerns with their leadership team directly.
"We look forward to our ongoing conversations with our Bupa Pottsville team. We always have registered nurses rostered on duty and our employees work in partnership with residents, their relatives and other health professionals ranging from physios to dentists, GPs and occupational therapists.
"We have supported the announcement of a Royal Commission into aged care. We support the Royal Commission also having a focus on supporting and growing the aged care workforce and meeting the funding needs of the sector so Australia as a whole is able to meet the health and care needs of our ageing population in a sustainable way."