The Australian Nursing Federation is demanding answers from the Federal Government amid reports a trial through a Western Australian aged care provider will include training cleaners to perform the clinical duties of nurses.
The call comes after a media report revealed the government is spending $400,000 to enable an aged care provider to trial non-nursing personnel, such as cleaners, to carry out basic health checks, including taking residents’ temperatures and pulses in a bid to free up nurses to deal with more complex care issues.
A spokesperson for Minister for Aged Care Mark Butler labelled the story “misreporting” but the ANF is calling for further explanation and clarification.
ANF assistant federal secretary Yvonne Chaperon said the union is “still concerned”.
have never heard of up-skilling non-clinical staff to do clinical work – I have never heard anything like it,” she said.
“We don’t believe it’s the way to address the critical shortage of aged care nurses that are currently in the sector, which is up to 20,000, and the predicted shortage of aged care nurses.
“We need to be delivering quality aged care nurses on the ground, not up-skilling people who aren’t clinically trained.
“At the end of the day it is about quality care for older, vulnerable Australians. You can’t dumb it down, you can’t water it down.”
Ms Chaperon said the union has put in a request to Mr Butler’s office for the Minister to provide a statement in writing that will guarantee that less qualified staff “will never be called on” to perform the roles and responsibilities of registered, enrolled nurses and assistants-in-nursing in delivering quality care to older people living in nursing homes.
“We have also sought further information from them about the project and how it will be delivered – we want to know what it all means,” she said.
“We think it’s only fair that nurses and assistants-in-nursing who work in aged care know what’s happening and know what projects are running, so they know where they stand in aged care.”
Mr Butler’s spokesperson said there had been a “misunderstanding”.
“No, that’s incorrect,” he said.
“The project doesn’t involve training non-clinical staff to do the work of nurses.
“They will be training non-clinical staff to do things like health and safety issues…and they will train staff like physios and other health workers, they will be trained to notice things, like cuts, and refer that onto a nurse.”
The WA project is one of 26 projects to receive $10.2 million in Federal Government funds to better prepare the aged care workforce to care for older Australians.
In a statement, Mr Butler said the projects will tackle many of the daily challenges aged care workers face, such as delivering medications safely, and supporting people with complex needs.
“As part of up-skilling workers and job redesign, many of the projects will train workers who support aged care residents in roles such as nutrition, cleaning, personal care and physio to identify health and well-being issues early,” he said.
“By 2050 we expect that more than one in 20 working Australians will be an aged care worker, we need these workers to be as highly skilled as possible.”