Bupa Willoughby: why mandatory staff ratios are the only way

Article published 28 May 2019

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THE following is an excerpt of evidence given at the Aged Care Royal Commission:

“On 15 August 2017 at approximately 4 pm my sister called me to say that Mum was not doing well.  [..] My sister and I drove to Bupa Willoughby together.  When I arrived, I could hear Mum’s breathing from about 20 metres down the corridor, it was so loud.  When I got into the room I could see that her breathing was very laboured and she looked uncomfortable.  

“There was no one around to help my mum.  I ran around the facility doing laps of the corridors trying to find a nurse or just someone to assist.  I felt quite panicked at this stage, and my sister and I were pretty much were taking turns running around looking for help and then one of us would stay with Mum.  This went on for at least 30 minutes before we could find someone to help us.  Even when we were able to find people, we felt they did not know how to handle the situation.”   The resident referred to in this excerpt died later that night.

Bupa had this to say when it was examined at the Royal Commission about staffing that night:

“I’m not convinced they were short staffed. It was at a time after meals, putting residents to bed, and – but all the rooms are private rooms and most of the residents of the doors shut. And it has taken them some time to locate somebody. But it does not necessarily mean that the home is short-staffed.”

It is patently obvious from a response like this that staffing levels in nursing homes should not be set by nursing homes. While their mother was dying, it took the daughters of this resident more than half an hour to find a member of staff. When they found someone, that person did not know what to do. But according to Bupa staffing levels weren’t an issue.

If it can’t be left to aged care providers to set appropriate staffing levels, then obviously someone else has to do it. That someone else is the regulator. It’s the Government.

That’s why mandatory staff ratios set by the Government are the only way.

For more information please email our media contact at media@cpsa.org.au

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