Aged care: help needed locally

A Katoomba aged care worker is hoping the Blue Mountains community will rally behind the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association campaign to fight for improved staffing ratios in aged care facilities.

Warren Ross has worked in aged care for five years and became involved in this campaign in the lead up to the Aged Care Royal Commission.

Blue Mountains campaigners for aged care.

Blue Mountains campaigners for aged care.

Mr Ross said aged care staff wanted to see government funding increased "and the direct employment of permanent staff with decent pay and enough hours to live on" as well as "mandated minimum staffing levels and required mix of skills and qualifications in every residential facility, over every shift". Issues like better training and financial accountability in private aged care facilities to governments were also a concern, he said.

"Somewhere between 75-80 per cent of all funding to private aged care facilities comes from the Federal government. Despite this, reporting requirements are remarkably lax.

"The central reason there has been a focus on aged care is the recent embarrassment caused by media exposes such as the ABC's Four Corners program. This program pointed to examples of extreme neglect and in some cases abuse of residents. In my experience, this is not common but the stress caused by inadequate staffing has to show somewhere."

Blue Mountains registered nurse Jocelyn Hofman reiterated Mr Ross's concerns.

"We really want the government to listen to our concerns issues and our plan to fix the broken aged care system because we are deeply concerned for our residents' safety," Mrs Hofman said.

"The COVID pandemic has exposed the flaws of aged care and chronic understaffing. Providers are getting millions in subsidies and, there's no strings attached. Funding must be linked to staffing. We will all get old, it's immoral, we are standing up for what we believe in."

Mr Ross said the COVID-19 era had shown there was "plenty of money when there is a perceived crisis.This is a crisis. If the resources are available, we can solve any problem."

Nurses and care staff plan to hold information stalls on March 5 in Springwood and March 6 in Katoomba, where people are invited to come and discuss the issues in the campaign and sign their petition. For more information go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bmRaiseTheRatio