Are your elderly family members getting enough care?
THE Southern Downs' aged care sector is growing fast but there are concerns that growth will outpace the supply of skilled carers.
The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union audited 83 nursing homes across the state and found the majority were staffed by a high percentage of under-skilled workers.
About 77 per cent of aged care staff are not nurses and don't have the training to provide the complex care, while 80.5 per cent of respondents said staff levels were unsafe at their facility.
The union is calling for federally mandated staff ratios across the aged care sector but one of Warwick's leading aged care experts, Akooramak CEO Darryl Chapman, is not convinced it will help.
He has worked in private and public aged care for 40 years and said mandated staff ratios were a bit of red herring.
"The quality of care is not directly related to the ratio of patients to nurses,” he said.
Rather, he said individual providers should hire based on their unique needs.
"Some aged care facilities have a significant number of the their care recipients with a higher level of care needs,” he said.
"Only 55 per cent of our resident are considered high-care.
"If you have a facility that has 80 percent high-care patients, you'd think they have a higher amount of skilled staff.”
If the Federal Government legislates for minimum staff ratios, it will come with a considerable cost, which is a concern for Mr Chapman.
"Is it going to be additional government funding or are the residents going to pay?” he said.
"The other issues is where are the staff going to come from?”
Akooramak employs about 140 staff to care for its 100 patients. It has full employment at the moment, pays above the award rate and regularly supports employees with leave and financial help if they what to pursue further training or study.
When Regency Park is at full occupancy it will have similar staff demands.
Mr Chapman is concerned there are not enough high-skilled carers to fill the rush of vacancies.
"To provide the required skill set they will have to attract people to Warwick,” he said. "That's a good thing.”
But the staff shortage is state-wide and the QNMU report shows the lowest staffed regions are in the big cities.
Places like Nerang, Miami, Tweed Heads, Coolangatta, Mooloolaba, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and inner suburbs of Brisbane all provided less than half the recommended number of care hours.
If out-of-town labour can't be sourced Mr Chapman said there would be some hard decisions ahead.
"Do we bring in contractors, do we reduce occupancy or grow some of our own staff, so to speak?” he said.
Rather than look at ratios, Mr Chapman said increasing salaries would attract more people to the industry.
"Traditionally, people working in aged care are pretty poorly remunerated, yet we are still able to attach staff, even though they are paid less,” he said.
"Aged care is a complicated little animal and it certainly needs all the attention we can give it.”