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Attack on aged care nurses could impact tens of thousands of elderly Queenslande by Idowu Olabode : August 26, 2016, 07:00:01 AM
TENS of thousands of elderly Queenslanders could be impacted if BlueCare/Wesley Mission Brisbane (BCWMB) unprecedented attack on the wages and working conditions of aged care nurses goes ahead.

Queensland Nurses’ Union (QNU) Assistant Secretary Sandra Eales said the aged care provider recently announced staffing changes that could affect the care and safety of residents in almost every Queensland community. They would also impact around 9000 aged care staff state-wide.

Ms Eales said BCWMB run 126 aged care facilities throughout the state as part of UnitingCare Queensland – which recently reported a $40 million surplus.

The aged care provider this month announced they would not negotiate on plans to undermine pay and working conditions for thousands of nurses and other staff at BCWMB facilities between Cairns, Cloncurry and Coolangatta.

Aged care nurses are already among the state’s lowest paid and the proposed changes could make it financially impossible for hard-working aged care employees to stay. Some aged care staff currently earn almost $600 a fortnight less than their counterparts in the public health system.   

“BlueCare/Wesley Mission Brisbane’s proposed changes to wages and working conditions are so drastic they could force staff to reconsider their employment options  and severely impact tens of thousands of elderly Queenslanders in care,’’ Ms Eales said.

“Anyone with a relative with BlueCare/Wesley Mission Brisbane should ask their local provider how these changes will impact their loved one.

“Nurses, personal carers and other staff in aged care facilities are already stretched to breaking. These latest changes could see staff forced to find better positions with other employers and quality of care diminished despite the best efforts of those on the floor.

“Remaining staff will do the best they can. It’s what they won’t be able to do that may lead to adverse outcomes. In aged care insufficient staff and poor working conditions have a direct impact on the safety of residents.’’

The proposed changes are outlined in an enterprise bargaining proposal which offers staff less pay and workplace provisions than those agreed to in 2013. These include:

*The removal of overtime resulting in below award wages for hours worked

*The  encouragement of  broken shifts, some broken into two or three shifts per day of as little as one hour each

*The reduction of hours and wages despite existing work contracts and the loss of job security for part-time employees.

Ms Eales said the changes would end job security for part-time staff and allow part-time employees on contracts to be treated like casuals, without the compensatory 25 per cent loading casuals receive.

The move has shocked nurses and prompted the QNU to launch a campaign to inform management and the public that resident safety is at risk and nurses and aged care staff should be valued. Ms Eales this morning delivered more than 5000 signatures against the proposed changes to BlueCare’s Brisbane head office.

A recent national aged care telephone survey found elderly Queenslanders were suffering unnecessary pain, injury and death due to staffing shortages in aged care facilities throughout the country.

Callers said improper staffing meant aged care residents were regularly left to lie in their own waste, became delusional with pain due to lack of medication and broke bones while visiting the toilet unattended.

The QNU heard it was not uncommon for a single nurse to regularly be left with between 100 and 200 residents at a time. This survey highlighted huge concerns around staffing and skill mixes across the whole aged care sector.

Ms Eales said the quality of care provided in aged care had real impacts on residents’ lives.

A UnitingCare Queensland media release titled One of Australia’s largest non-profit realigns for success and  dated 9 February 2016 stated UnitingCare Queensland had been “redesigned’’ and that the “new UnitingCare Queensland will be characterised by business streams…’’

The enterprise bargaining agreement containing the planned changes will go to staff ballot on September 12.

Queensland Nurses Union 

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