Former staff members at a popular aged care facility in Ballarat have raised concerns for resident care, after over 25 nurses were made redundant in February.
The Courier understands 22 endorsed enrolled nurses, the equivalent of 10 full time positions, and two registered division one nurses were made redundant from Nazareth House.
Two registered nurses were made redundant from the pain management team, which provides massage and TENS therapy for aged care residents.
The accredited aged care facility proposed to replace the positions with 3.32 equivalent full time registered nurses and 7.88 equivalent full time personal care workers in February.
NAZARETH CARE BALLARAT EXPLAINS
Nazareth House general manager Tanya Barun said in a statement six new registered nurses and a full-time clinical care coordinator had been recruited over the past week, with more to come.
“Nazareth Care Ballarat is in the final stages of implementing a new staffing model for our home, which includes a substantial increase in the number of university-trained registered nurses,” she said.
“We are doubling the number of registered nurses on night shift and tripling the number on afternoon shift.
“The changes will allow us to continue to deliver the highest quality of care to residents.”
Ms Barun said the restructure was made based on the results of an independent review in 2017.
FORMER STAFF MEMBERS RAISE CONCERNS FOR CARE
One former Nazareth House staff member who was made redundant said resident care had decreased since the redundancies.
“We had been there a long time, one of us for 39 years. Then we all suddenly disappeared,” the staff member said.
“No information was given to the families before we were made redundant and incorrect information was given afterwards.
“We are very concerned for the care of residents. They have gotten rid of a lot of skilled staff to the detriment of the residents and the residents’ families.
“We had a good relationship with the families because we had been there a long time. We were able to pick up on symptoms personal carer workers or people who don’t know the residents well may not see. Elderly people can deteriorate very quickly.”
FAMILIES LEFT IN THE LURCH
One family member of a resident at Nazareth House said she had been devastated and disappointed since losing staff she had come to form a close relationship with.
“People just disappeared and no residents or family members were told they were going,” she said.
“I have found it quite difficult. There have been a few sleepless nights just wondering what was happening. I am concerned for the impact this will have on care for my mother.”
The family member said management at Nazareth House was offering three information sessions to family members about the restructure this fortnight, almost one month after the redundancies were made.
CALL FOR LEGISLATED RATIOS
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is calling for improvements to ratios for nursing staff in Victorian nursing homes.
Public nursing homes in Victoria have legislated nurse to resident ratios while private for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes like Nazareth House do not.
Private for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes come under the Aged Care Act’s staffing requirements.
There is only one line in the act that states the approved provider has a responsibility ‘to maintain an adequate number of appropriately skilled staff to ensure that the care needs of recipients are met’. The word ‘adequate’ is undefined and unenforceable.
In contrast, public nursing homes in Victoria follow legislated ratios dictating one nurse for every seven residents plus one in charge for the morning shift, one nurse for every eight residents plus one in charge for the afternoon shift, and one nurse for every 15 residents for the night shift.
ANMF Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said it had been a distressing time for nurses made redundant, who were concerned their employer would replace them with personal care workers.
“PCWs have an important role in providing personal care for nursing home residents, but they cannot replace nurses,” she said.
“It is shameful that private for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes are choosing to employ fewer nurses simply because they can. We have to change the aged care law to mandate nurse/carer to resident ratios to protect vulnerable Victorians living in nursing homes.
“The Andrews Government has legislated ratios in Victoria’s public nursing homes, so the Federal Government should do the same in private and not-for-profit nursing homes.”