Aged care workers: Safe staffing must be mandatory in 2022 – E tu

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Workers at aged care home and hospitals across Aotearoa New Zealand will take action at their workplaces and at Parliament this December in the fight to win mandatory safe staffing.

On 9 December, union members from E tū and NZNO, supported by national seniors network, Grey Power, plan to present a parliamentary petition and an open letter with almost 7000 signatures, calling for safe staffing levels to become mandatory across the sector.

Current staffing guidelines are voluntary only, implemented at the discretion of each aged care provider. They are also woefully outdated, having been drawn up nearly 20 years ago in 2005.

E tū Community Support Services Industry Council Convenor and aged care worker Marianne Bishop says workers feel incredibly stretched and frustrated due to low staffing numbers, and they aren’t able to provide the level of care they’d like – an issue that has only been compounded during the Covid crisis.

“We want to be able to provide quality care and have quality time with residents. It’s not enough to just ‘do what we have time to do’.

“We hate not being able to answer bells quickly and not being able to check on residents more regularly, because sometimes when we do get there, it’s too late,” she says.

“If we were an older person or not able to do things for ourselves, how would we feel – having to wait half an hour, or an hour? If that was a member of our whānau, how would we feel?”

Marianne says to win safe staffing, aged care workers need the support of the whole country.

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Grey Power President Jan Pentecost says that the organisation is 100% behind the push for safe staffing.

“We absolutely support aged care workers in their fight to win mandatory safe staffing, quite simply because many of our members and their families rely on staffing levels to be safe.

“But for that to happen, there needs to be mandatory standards in place.”

E tū spokesperson Jody Anderson says aged care workers and unions want to see a law setting down the minimum staffing levels that an aged care home or hospital must have in place.

“Our members and the residents they care for simply cannot wait any longer for this. They have been asking and campaigning for this protective legislation for more than a decade,” she says.

“In the meantime, the care they are being asked to provide gets more complex as workers are treating residents with higher needs, all with the same number of staff – a number that’s often all too low as worker shortages and lack of staffing laws bite.”

“We need everyone – aged care workers, their whānau, the family members of those in care homes, and our communities – to join together to send a strong, clear message to our Government: we need safe staffing and we need it now.”