Eighty people have called on Japara Healthcare to increase staff at the Albury and District aged care home at a meeting for residents and their families about proposed roster changes.
A group who were present told The Border Mail it was not made clear what the reduction in staffing hours would be, but a vote put forward demanding an increase was supported unanimously.
“It seemed they have backed down on the cuts, but they said the roster was still fluid,” a family member said.
“When they (Japara representatives) were asked why, they talked about all businesses conducting reviews.”
The family member said she often observed staff under pressure at the facility.
“They haven’t got time to wheel residents into the dining room, which can be their only interaction, so they eat in their rooms,” she said.
“It takes quality care to entice them (residents who have dementia) to eat, and then the staff are in a hurry and take the plates away.
“You’ll be walking in the hallways, the buzzer is going and you can see the cleaner is in torment because they can’t go in and help the lady they know has been calling out for a long time.
“Our loved one has a colostomy bag and the staff can’t always prevent it bursting, but checking it more would reduce how often it happens.”
Japara state general manager Russell Sciberras spoke at the meeting but group executive of care and commercial Wendy Waddell did not say anything.
One attendee described the comments made by management as “placating”.
“I didn’t get one positive thing out of it,” she said.
“We kept being told the ‘minimum’ is being met, but we want more than that.”
Managers were also told costs of $5000 per month meant families expected “premium care” and any reduction of staff would reduce the care provided.
NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association organiser Viola Morris spoke to families as they arrived for the meeting yesterday at the Union Road facility.
Ms Morris said instead it appeared staffing would be reduced from one registered nurse (RN) and five assistants in nursing (AIN) to one RN and four AINs on a night shift.
“One nurse per section, or to 30 residents, is not enough when there is a locked dementia facility, and there are two residents in that facility who to be lifted must be assisted by two staff,” she said.
“People with dementia often wake up at 2am and wander around, and can become violent, and that’s why you need extra people.
“The RN then has to deal with all the emergencies.
“One of the nurses has said the RN needs to decide who to give emergency care to.”
Ms Morris said even before the changes were outlined, the staffing ratios were not adequate.
One testimony on a hand-out given to families read “Every day we need to choose between feeding residents or having our own lunches.
“After the changes, I’m worried that even if we work through our lunches, we won’t be able to take care of our residents.”
Nurses in the public health system protested the changes outside the facility yesterday in support of the staff employed by Japara.
“The staff are not allowed to talk and feel great solidarity by having them there,” Ms Morris said.
At least once a month an aged care resident is admitted to Nolan House, and nurse Geraldine Chapman said the issue went further than the Union Road facility.
“When residents don’t get the right care in the home they end up in emergency departments,” she said.
“People come in with urinary tract infections and for the elderly that can really impact their health – such as on their renal function, or it can cause delirium.
“They have falls and fractured hips.
“A lot of the elderly get quite frightened sometimes by the behaviour at Nolan.”
Carol Leslie said at a time when a royal comission into the aged care sector had been announced, residential facilities should be increasing their resources, not cutting them.
“It takes time to give care to these people and if you had six minutes to get them showered and dressed, you wouldn’t even bother,” she said.
“It’s unbelievable there are no ratios.
“It’s their misery they feel that really upsets me – people have sold their homes to come to these places.
“With aged care, giving interaction is so important.”
Catherine Winchester, who used to work in aged care, said the entire sector needed to be overhauled.
She shared a devastating account from her time at a residential facility.
“I was the only nurse there for 14 residents and there was somebody who was passing away,” Ms Winchester said.
“It was right on meal time, I had buzzers going off and 13 other residents – I rang my manager and he told me to do my job.
“The best I could do was put some music on while this person was taking their last breath.
“That’s when I walked away from aged care.”
One of the family members of a resident at Albury and District hoped ratios would be legislated and said Japara’s mission “to employ more nurses so that more time can be devoted to each resident” should be upheld by the company.
“It can happen now, government could mandate ratios, they don’t have to wait for the royal commission,” she said.
“Childcare and school have ratios – why not aged care?”
A Japara spokeswoman previously said in a statement; “we want to ensure we have the right mix of staff and resources available to meet residents’ needs”.
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