Not enough aged care staff to respond to call bells  

2 December 2021

The problems within our aged care sector continue to escalate with call bells now becoming a compliance tool. 

While the ANMF (SA Branch) supports residents call bells being answered in a timely and effective manner, the reality is that the current Aged Care environment and resourcing does not support nurses and care staff to do that. To then council or discipline staff for their failure to comply is simply setting them up to fail. 

Aged care staff are being told they have to respond to call bells within 5 to 7 minutes and to respond even when on meal breaks.  Failure to answer within set time limits often results in disciplinary action against very overworked, underpaid and undervalued staff who are stretched beyond their limits. 

Some staff already with a resident are being compelled to abandon the person, potentially inappropriately. This is not acceptable. 

There are simply not enough staff in aged care to meet these demands. This is clearly demonstrated by the ever-growing national prevalence of noncompliance with Standard 3 - Personal and Clinical Care, (as reported on MyAgedCare and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission websites).  Clearly there are insufficient staff numbers and skills mix to deliver fundamental care.

Some agencies are adopting dangerous practices by allowing only one person managing a resident in a lifter so the other can leave to answer bells.  This is dangerous to both the older person and the worker. It also is a breach of Work Health Safety (WHS) standards.   

Aged care is the industry with one of the highest prevalence of workplace injury. Is it any wonder with these unsafe working conditions that have become common place due to lack of staffing and skills mix? 

It also begs the question: ‘Do you leave the older person in the shower or on the toilet to answer the bell which may equally have been rung by an older person needing help?’.  Given the vulnerability of residents requiring assistance and care, these are questions that nurses and personal care assistants should not need to ask themselves. 
Additional staffing and greater skills mix ratios are urgently required to address systemic issues identified by the Royal Commission into Aged Care and more than 30 other inquiries into aged care. 

Sadly, the Morrison Government continues to fail to fix urgently needed staffing and skills mix by not immediately legislating minimum staff numbers.
“The Royal Commission considered thousands of submissions of damning evidence and allegations. However many of its recommendations to fix a system that has been universally condemned as woefully inept are being ignored” said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM. 

“The Morrison Government must act to legislate ratios now’’. 

Aged care staff concerned by call bell edicts and other potential WHS breaches are asked to contact the ANMF Duty Officer on 8334 1900 or email [email protected] 
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