Richard Colbeck has weighed in on the aged care debate, saying reforms introduced a year ago are helping regulate staffing numbers.
Richard Colbeck has weighed in on the aged care debate, saying reforms introduced a year ago are helping regulate staffing numbers.

Minister on aged care reform as Blue Care denies Bundy cuts

AGED care provider Blue Care has denied impending cuts to staffing at its Bundaberg facilities, saying that on the contrary, the organisation is hiring.

The rebuttal comes following claims from the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union last week that Blue Care was set to slash staff at 28 of its Queensland facilities.

The QNMU called for clarity amid fears staffing hours were being greatly reduced by Blue Care.

"The QNMU is gravely concerned for the wellbeing of thousands of elderly Queensland residents in impacted facilities," secretary Beth Mohle said.

"As such, we have referred the proposed cuts to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, to the federal Minister Ageing Richard Colbeck for urgent action and have advised the Aged Care Royal Commission of this extremely disturbing development.

"Any federal failure to intervene will result in potentially life-threatening reduced care for vulnerable Queenslanders."
A spokesman for Blue Care, which runs the Bundaberg Pioneer Aged Care Facility and the Bundaberg Millbank Aged Care Facility, said staffing levels were known to waver in the industry.

"...Blue Care is currently hiring across several of our sites and services in Bundaberg," he said.

"As good stewards of the resources entrusted to us as a not-for-profit, we regularly monitor our staffing levels and rosters across our aged care services and make small adjustments (both up and down) in the normal course of business in response to fluctuating aged care home occupancy levels and the changing clinical and social needs of our residents and clients.

"When making these small adjustments, our residents, clients and employees are always at the centre of our approach."

The spokesman said the organisation was willing to work with unions when required.

"We take our consultation responsibilities under our enterprise agreements seriously, and where any workforce changes require consultation with a union, we always strive to engage in a proactive, genuine and meaningful way," he said.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, speaking exclusively to the NewsMail, said standards introduced to the industry a year ago ensured that aged care providers delivered sufficient staffing.

"The Aged Care Quality Standards, which commenced on 1 July 2019, require approved providers of aged care to ensure they have a workforce that is sufficient, skilled and qualified to provide safe, respectful and quality care," he said.

"Providers are expected to regularly review workforce levels and mix of skills of their staff, and adapt these to respond to the changing needs and situations of residents."

Mr Colbeck said the government had made a record investment in aged care funding, from$3.3 billion in 2012-13 to $21.4 billion in 2019-20 and an estimated $25.4 billion in 2022-23.

He said the Aged Care Royal Commission had been instrumental in bringing reform to the industry.

"It has delivered on key reforms including a new Independent Aged care Quality and Safety Commission, implemented new consumer-focused quality standards and introduced a new single Charter of Aged Care Rights was now in place," he said.

Mr Colbeck said other outcomes in the wake of the Royal Commission Interim Report included more than $496 million for an additional 10,000 home care packages, $10 to increase support for dementia management and $4.7 to help younger people move out of aged care facilities and into more appropriate housing.

"A range of funding measures to support aged care providers, residents, staff and families totalling over $850 million has also been announced in response to the Covid pandemic," he said.

"The funding includes $234.9 million for a COVID-19 'retention bonus' to ensure the continuity of the workforce for aged care workers in both residential and home care."

Tricare and Bolton Clarke facilities also came under the QNMU spotlight, but Bundaberg's Tricare facility was not implicated.

When the NewsMail contacted Bolton Clarke for clarity, a spokeswoman said the organisation had implemented a surge workforce strategy to have additional staffing in the wake of the peak coronavirus period, but that it was a temporary workforce that would be reduced back down again.

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