Media Release

4 November 2019

Time to stop kicking the can down the road and call out employers on staffing

“It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road”. With these words Nursing Federation Assistant Secretary Paul Gilbert concluded a summation about staffing from the witness box that deserves close attention. He said there are already ratios, they are just dreadfully low.

Providers and bureaucrats have for many years clung in unison to the mantra that staff:resident ratios are per se a blunt instrument. This mantra simply serves to prop up a management prerogative. The mantra begs a question which is rarely asked of employers “Well if ratios are a blunt instrument can you explain what formula you use to decide on staffing numbers and skill mix?”.

The union official believes he has the answer. He claims that the benchmark which aged care employers use to set staffing derives from the aggregate data collected from around 900 homes by chartered accountants StewartBrown. Their reports map, among other things, the amount of resources a provider spends on hands-on care. He contends that providers use the data to see where they sit on the spectrum and reason that if they are “kind of like most other people, that’s good enough”. As Paul Gilbert says this “couldn’t be more blunt” (Transcript:6016, 16 October 2019).

The ANMF claim should be exhaustively tested. Elder Care Watch believes senior managers should be asked exactly how their organisation calculates staffing levels and skill mix. An opportunity seems to have been missed on 17 October when the CEOs of four companies appeared in the witness box. The questioning was relatively soft compared with the laser like approach of all Counsel Assisting when dealing with case studies of poor health care. Industrial relations management deserves scrutiny as forensic as that which has been applied so impressively by the Commission to health care management.

Contact Carol Williams 0407 515 636