'Dire' surge in serious aged care incidents could be fixed with budget, union says

Concerns have been raised over whether a new initiative tasked with reducing serious incidents within aged care services is being adequately funded and staffed. Picture: Shutterstock
Concerns have been raised over whether a new initiative tasked with reducing serious incidents within aged care services is being adequately funded and staffed. Picture: Shutterstock

Reports of serious incidents within the country's aged care facilities have reached nearly 3000 in the first six weeks of a new government initiative's formation amid criticism the scheme is already being overwhelmed.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission established the Serious Incident Response Scheme in April following troubling reports of neglect and abuse in the more than 3000 residential aged care services around Australia.

But the scheme, which has received 2800 reports and conducted more than 13 site visits in its first six weeks, is being overworked and given inadequate resources, the main public sector has warned.

Tasked with receiving the aged care services' compulsory reporting obligations and investigating serious allegations made against them, the Community and Public Section Union has alleged the team of handpicked commission staff is already being stretched beyond its capacity.

Deputy national secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said staff had already felt overwhelmed by the nature of the work with labour hire staff being brought in to deal with the workload.

Ms Vincent-Pietsch pointed to the long-criticised average staffing cap as the root case of the issue - a policy which prevents agencies from exceeding a certain number of permanent employees and instead relying on contracted workers.

"Our members want to deliver on community expectations of care and regulation in the aged care sector but the chronic under-resourcing and outsourcing at the commission presents critical issues," Ms Vincent-Pietsch said.

"We know that more than 30 per cent of commission workers are not directly employed, they are contracted through labour hire companies.

"Quite simply, there are not enough staff to complete work needed when implementing new regulations and improving the experience for residents and consumers of aged care facilities and in-home care."

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The union is calling on the government to address the shortfall in its budget announcement on Tuesday evening.

It's expected more than $10 billion in funding will be given to the aged care sector but Ms Vincent-Pietsch said the staffing cap needed to go in addition to any increases in funding.

"The huge contact numbers to the new [scheme] further illustrates the dire need for [average staffing level cap] relief in this agency," Ms Vincent-Pietsch said.

"The government could fix this in tonight's budget, and ensure the commission has the staff it needs to meet community expectations of regulation and safety."

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This story 'Not enough staff' amid surge in serious aged care incidents first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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