A SILENT walk has evolved into a campaign that demands to be heard.
Aged care workers are urging the community to back their campaign for better staff ratios, training and a focus on people-centred care.
The campaign launch comes ahead of the release of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's final report investigating the quality of residential and in-home aged care.
Commissioners have delivered their long-awaited findings to the governor-general but it won't be made public until the federal government tables it in parliament.
Aged care workers kicked off the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association backed campaign with a silent walk and now wants to start a petition and have the support of federal MPs across the Mid North Coast to improve the working conditions of those who care for our older residents.
"Ratios depend on the care needs of residents. Evidence shows that residents on average should receive a minimum of four hours and 18 minutes of care per day. That's one and a half hours more than many of them are getting now," campaigners said.
"Our older residents deserve better. We cannot provided people-centred care when we haven't got the staff ratios right.
"This requires bipartisan government support and we can't change this without the support of our communities. This is everyone's responsibility."
The campaign is pushing for greater transparency for any additional government funding. It says staff ratios must be front and centre of the discussion and any action that follows the Royal Commission.
The campaign calls for a legal minimum staffing and a mix of skills; transparency and accountability for government funding; mandatory ongoing skills development paid for by the employer; and more government funding linked to direct care and staff wages.
Read more: Aged care report scheduled to go public
Aged care providers must be held accountable and use funding for its intended purpose of employing additional nurses and carers, the union campaign says.
Australia has strict staff ratios for childcare, but there are no ratios for aged care and no laws to ensure elderly get the care they need.
Australian Aged Care Collaboration representatives Patricia Sparrow and Sean Rooney said more than 20 government aged care reviews in 20 years had failed to fix a broken system and that the drip feed of ad-hoc measures must end.
"There have been some terrible examples in aged care where individuals or services have failed in their duties to provide safe and quality care," Mr Rooney said.
"As we have said in evidence to the Royal Commission, these failures are unacceptable, and we are sorry for the harm they have caused. As a sector we are doing what we can to ensure these failures are not repeated.
"But we cannot do this alone - we need new system settings around policy, outcomes, regulation and resourcing to enable and support providers to deliver the best care possible for our elders.
"Successive federal governments over the past two decades have failed to act on many independent reports highlighting the need for major reform."
Ms Sparrow said while the sector overwhelmingly is trying to do the right thing, it must be recognised that Australia spends less than half what other comparable countries do on aged care.
"As a result, under-resourced aged care homes were described by Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission as in an 'impossible situation', and were struggling to maintain standards and staffing, whilst fighting to keep their doors open," Ms Sparrow said.
"Older Australians want and deserve more staff to care for them, ensure they are better paid and better trained - along with better facilities and even better meals.
"We view the Royal Commission report as one of national importance."
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