Republished article of The Nurse Path. Find more of The Nurse Path here. Check out our other articles and guest bloggers here. Want to write an article? Go Here

Written in 2017

OK. Please take few moments to look at this. It is as important as heck.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) responds to the recent study into preventable deaths in the aged care sector:

New research showing that the number of deaths in nursing homes from preventable causes has increased by 400 per cent over the last 13 years again highlights the urgent need for mandated nurse and carer to patient ratios, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The research, collated from the Coronial investigations into nursing home deaths over the past decade, was carried out by Monash University Professor Joseph Ibrahim and published in the Medical Journal of Australia. It showed the most frequent causes of death were:

Falls (81.5%);
Choking (7.9%);
Suicide (4.4%).

[…] Unfortunately, the findings of Professor Ibrahim’s research do not come as a big surprise to the ANMF or to our members working in the residential aged care sector, who have been telling us how much worse the sector has become and how difficult it is for them to provide the care they know their residents need. There just simply aren’t enough nurses or carers to ensure that every resident receives quality care.

“This is a situation that is increasingly distressing for our members as well as for residents and their families and it’s one we are battling to change. However, the more evidence, such as this research, we have, the more politicians will have to listen. They cannot continue to treat Australia’s elderly in this way.

“If we had this level of preventable deaths occurring in our hospitals there would be a public outcry. Why is it that we don’t care the same way about our elderly, choosing instead to lock them away and forget about them? As Professor Ibrahim says, we owe older people a better place to live out their lives because they’ve given us one of the best countries in the world to live in.”  — ANMF media release

Understaffing, under-funding under-skilling,  of the aged care sector has been going on for far too long now. And without much identification or accountability. It is absolutely no surprise that things have gone to shit.

As a nurse who has worked in a large emergency department for over 33yrs I have seen the direct results of the dilution in the capabilities of the aged care sector. From patients sent in by ambulance (at considerable taxpayers expense for the round trip alone) to have minor procedures that used to be done by registered nurses in-house, to increased incidences of falls and pressure injuries, to miscommunications and misunderstandings over the patients need or desire for acute, invasive hospital management when it finally comes time for them to die.

And then there are the anecdotal stories of specific incidents and general environmental conditions coming from facility staff as well as from families of those in their care. 

I have no doubt that there remain many pockets within the sector that continue to deliver excellent care (a garland of respect and appreciation to the nurses and other carers achieving this), but looking at the big picture,  the feeling that I get talking to colleagues, feelings hardened by reports such as this, is that overall…..things are now beyond grim.

Those mothers and fathers and grandfathers and great grandmothers and younger people too, who all find themselves relying on compassion and care and provision of some sort of day-to-day quality of life within this silo of the health system are often the most vulnerable, disenfranchised and ignored.

As a profession this is a crisis that requires us to unite and mobilise, to raise our considerable collective voice to ensure this SPECIALITY (for that is what it is) is supported and given the funding and experienced quality nursing resources that those people needing it are deserving of.

It is already too late. So now we have to do our damndest to resurrect it and to heal it.

Please share your own thoughts, comments and experiences…..