Above: The Member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, signs the Victorian ANF’s Because We Care pledge, with Gregory Lodge resident Joyce White, ANF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary Pip Carew, Royal Freemasons Chief Executive Felix Pintado and Gregory Lodge resident William Pearce looking on.
By Stephen Easton
The federal Member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, declared his support last Friday for the Australian Nursing Federation’s (ANF) Because We Care campaign at the Gregory Lodge nursing home, becoming only the second politician on the mainland to do so.
The ANF’s campaign for aged care reform, which began in early 2009, demands more staff hours per resident and higher wages to match public sector nurses, as well as increased funding earmarked specifically to pay for it, and transparency to ensure that it does.
Defying the threat of ‘Friday the 13th’ bad luck, Mr Bandt helped the Victorian branch of the ANF launch their push to get federal and state politicians in their state to sign the pledge, demonstrating they support better conditions through higher wages and more staff as a fundamental premise for quality aged care.
ANF Victorian Branch Assistant Secretary, Pip Carew, said organisers had begun canvassing politicians and had already received positive responses to the suggestion.
“What we want to see is genuine reforms that go right to the guts of the system,” Ms Carew said, adding that the sector was attracting few new nurses, and losing many due to low pay and disillusionment.
“There have been recent studies and, particularly for the RNs who are leaving the industry, they are incredibly committed but they are suffering from the working environment.
“They don’t get paid the same as their colleagues in other sectors and also, more importantly, they experience a high level of frustration because they can’t provide the level of care they want to provide; one could be looking after 60-100 residents on a night shift.”
The ANF has been actively engaged in the consultation process for the Productivity Commission’s (PC) inquiry into aged care reform, and recently delivered the PC a petition, signed by more than 26,000 people “demanding that the federal government fix the aged care system”.
“There’s some key elements we want to impress,” Ms Carew said. “Wages that are comparable with public sector nurses – at the moment aged care nurses are undervalued – and also that there’s the right mix of skills.”
“Aged care nurse are paid significantly less than in the public sector, and that’s now something that is now much more widely known [as a result of the ANF campaign].
“A recent Bentleys report identified that now on average a resident received 22 minutes of Registered Nursing care on a shift, so there’s been an exodus of registered staff from the aged care sector.”
The same report also found that the amount of nursing time each resident recevies has fallen by about 20 per cent in the past four years.
“Also, there is now an imbalance of skills,” Ms Carew added, “so we have many more unregistered workers delivering care to residents, many of whom have complex needs. Studies are showing the average aged care resident is becoming older, more frail, and has more chronic illnesses.”
Above: Federal Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt meeting Gregory Lodge nursing home resident Joyce White.
Mr Bandt is the first member of the Australian Greens ever elected to the House of Representatives, and now the first Victorian federal MP to support the campaign, joining the Member for the Queensland seat of Blair, Shayne Neuman, and seven Tasmanian politicians from both state and federal parliaments.
The drive for the signatures of Tasmanian parliamentarians began earlier in the year, with Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim putting pen to paper in March and later his Shadow Health Minister, Paul O’Halloran.
Tasmanian Labor Premier Lara Giddings also signed, as did Liberal Member for Franklin Jacquie Petrusmas and fellow state MP Dick James, of the Australian Independent Retirees party, as well as federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Tasmanian Senator Carol Brown.