Aged care facilities in Queensland are dumping sick elderly residents into hospitals as a way of cutting their own labour costs – putting even more pressure on staff working in hospital emergency departments.

Cuts to staff mean that staff-patient ratios in some aged care facilities are at levels that put the lives of the elderly at severe risk. The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency recently audited a Queensland care facility that had cut its nursing staff by 25 percent last year.

The auditors reported that they were not satisfied that “medication is managed safely and correctly and provided in a timely manner”, and that “pain management interventions and/or referral to health professionals are not provided in a timely manner”.

A second Queensland care facility is under federal Health Department scrutiny after staff told inspectors they did not have the time or resources to do their jobs properly.

The Courier Mail reported recently that one in seven Queensland nursing facilities failed government inspections in the past year.

According to the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union (QNMU), “Over the last 13 years chronic understaffing has seen a 400 percent increase in preventable deaths of elderly Australians in aged care”.

Not only are aged care facilities chronically understaffed, but staffing regulations regarding medical personnel are inadequate. The QNMU says, “There are no laws that state even a single Registered Nurse be on site at an aged care facility at any time”. This adds to the pressure on the staff caring for the elderly and severely compromises the care the elderly receive.

The secretary of the QNMU, Beth Mohle, commented in a recent interview, “We’ve got over $1 billion in profits being made in the aged care industry in the last lot of financial reporting and yet there’s not a requirement for minimum staffing or skill mix. It’s outrageous”.

Aged care providers are caring for some of society’s most vulnerable members and trying to do it on the cheap, all so they can maintain profits and pay dividends to shareholders. It is disgusting.