Aged-care provider axing staff, says union
ONE of Queensland's leading private aged care providers is axing frontline nursing staff, raising concerns by the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union about reduced care for elderly residents.
The QNMU is representing 18 members at Blue Care facilities statewide regarding redundancies and downgrading of roles, with associated reduced pay and conditions.
Union secretary Beth Mohle said urgent requests to the aged care provider for details about the number of staffing cuts at Blue Care facilities across Queensland had failed.
She said the matter had been referred to the Fair Work Commission, which had set a hearing for 3pm today.
Ms Mohle said the union had also been advised of roster changes at TriCare's Mount Gravatt nursing home amounting to the loss of more than 1000 care hours per fortnight, including 126 nursing hours, 868 personal care assistant hours and 20 catering hours.
"The QNMU is gravely concerned for the wellbeing of thousands of elderly Queensland residents in impacted facilities,'' Ms Mohle said.
The union has called on Queenslanders with a loved one in care to check with management regarding staffing levels.
In a statement, a spokesman for UnitingCare Queensland, which runs Blue Care, said: "As good stewards of the resources entrusted to us, we regularly monitor our staffing levels and rosters across our aged care network and make adjustments, both up and down … in response to fluctuating occupancy levels and the changing clinical and social needs of our residents.
"When making these adjustments, our residents, clients and employees are always at the centre of our approach."
Ms Mohle said the QNMU had written to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck calling for intervention.
"Any federal failure to intervene will result in potentially life-threatening reduced care for vulnerable Queenslanders," Ms Mohle said.
The Courier-Mail understands staff impacted were not hired to help facilities cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Mohle said Australia's estimated 900 private aged care providers had received more than $66 billion in federal taxpayer funds since mid-2014, on top of co-payments and means-tested fees paid by residents.
"Australian private aged care providers do not publicly have to report how these funds are spent,'' Ms Mohle said.
"Until we have in place robust mechanisms to ensure taxpayer funding is tied to the care being provided, and there is a transparent system of public reporting no one can be expected to have confidence in claims of underfunding.''
She said an additional federal government emergency aged care allocation of $205 million was announced in May to support the sector's response to the pandemic.
Ms Mohle said providers may try to blame low occupancy linked to COVID-19 or financial hardship for redundancies and reduced nursing hours, but Queenslanders should take such claims "with a grain of salt".
"While we note some small or regional providers may be experiencing financial hardship, we believe a number of private providers may simply be attempting to further reduce staff in a bid to boost profit or surplus," she said.
The Royal Commission in Aged Care Quality and Safety's interim report released last year found "unacceptable and system-wide problems with aged care in Australia".
Although the commission is not due to release its final report until November, it has already identified an urgent need for more and better qualified staff.
Comment was sought from TriCare.
Originally published as Aged-care provider axing staff, says union