“Chronic understaffing” fuelled aged care crisis, union says

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More than a third of aged care workers in Australia are planning to quit within five years, with one in five looking to quit in the next 12 months, according to a new survey by Australia’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The ANMF National Aged Care COVID-19 Survey 2022, conducted between January and February, found that 48% of respondents reported working eight-hour shifts and 42% worked long periods without sufficient breaks, with 61% saying their working hours were ‘a bit more’ or ‘a lot more’ than they would like.

Alarmingly for employers, 37% of staff said they were planning to leave within five years and 21% within 12 months, with ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler (pictured) saying “years and years of experience” would go with them.

“Aged care workers told us they feel ‘unseen, unvalued and cast aside’ – they’re overworked, stressed and are fast-losing hope and strength. Overwhelmingly, they told us that understaffing was the major reason for the crisis the system faced during the pandemic.

“Lack of effective recruitment and retention of nurses and qualified care-workers will only put further strain on a system at breaking point and will lead to more suffering and neglect.

“The survey shows us that the staff remaining in aged care only do so for the love and respect of the people they care for, but their wages and conditions do not justify the risks and pressure they experience every time they go to work. It’s unsustainable,” she said.

The union is calling on the Morrison Government to bring in more qualified staff for the sector; it has also sought a commitment from Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese for 24/7 registered nurses, a recommendation put forward by the Royal Commission but so far not taken up by either party.

The staffing crisis has forced a number of homes to close over the past few years.