Workers fight to keep registered nurses in nursing homes
IF YOU think taking nurses out of nursing homes sounds like a backwards step, you are not alone.
North Coast Nurses director Samantha Cox has been rallying health workers to fight the proposed removal of need for registered nurses to be on duty at all times in high-care aged homes.
Submissions to a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the plan close today, with a final report due at the end of September.
Ms Cox, who has worked in residential aged care for the past 13 years, said the removal of round-the-clock care from registered nurses would be disastrous - and not just for residents.
"It will put a huge burden on doctors and the ambulance service, with a much higher admission rate to accident and emergency departments," she said.
"My own mother was in a residential aged care facility several years ago, and she died in the facility.
"It would have been just awful to think she would have had to be transferred to a public hospital, instead of being in her home with the people who knew and loved her.
"I can only see this resulting in preventable deaths."
Health groups have been campaigning for minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in aged care facilities, as none currently exist.
The current plan would remove the need for nurses entirely.
"I currently work after hours in a facility where there is one registered nurse to 86 residents," Ms Cox said.
"It's laughable when you consider they are trying to get a one-to-four ratio in public health.
"But even with one nurse for 86 residents, we still have a big impact.
"We run around like headless chooks all shift, but we are still preventing hospital transfers, implementing palliative care and improving the quality of residents' lives."
North Coast Greens MP Jan Barham, who will oversee the inquiry, said aged care residents and their families "should be confident that they will receive the highest quality care possible".
"We hope that this inquiry will identify and address any gaps in the level and quality of care..." she added.
Ms Cox said enrolled nurses, or EENs as they are referred to in the industry, were just as concerned about what the future may hold.
"In some cases, these care staff can have qualifications in three or four months," she said.
"Registered nurses spend three years at university and 20 hours of training every year to maintain their registration.
"And most of us specialise in something and never stop educating ourselves.
"That is not to take away from care staff. They are the heart and soul.
"They wipe your mum's backside, give her showers and do the hands-on care.
"They are absolute angels.
"But throwing them into roles with so much more responsibility is very frightening for them.
"They have enough to do as it is."