Qld nurses vote to pursue criminal investigation of Earle Haven
More than 350 Qld nurses and midwives voted on 17 July to pass an urgent and extraordinary motion to pursue the criminal investigation of Earle Haven management.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle said the urgency motion was passed on day one of the QNMU's annual conference and followed the shock shut down of the Earle Haven Aged Care facility on 11July 2019.
Ms Mohle said the motion aimed to initiate a possible Queensland police investigation of any possible offences related to the Earle Haven closure under the Criminal Law of Queensland or the Aged Care Act.
She said Queensland nurses and midwives sought thorough criminal investigation of any possible callous disregard shown to vulnerable residents by management before, during or after the shut down and evacuation.
The motion reads:
Specifically, we call upon the federal government to:
- Immediately intervene to secure permanent placement of displaced residents and ensure appropriate resourcing is provided to provide safe staffing to care for these residents
- Initiate a referral to applicable police authorities to investigate any offences under the Criminal Law of Queensland or the Aged Care Act in relation to the callous disregard shown for the vulnerable residents
- Vigorously pursue the owner and manager of the facility for monies owed to residents and their families as well as worker entitlements
- Apply all penalties available against management of the facility for their unconscionable actions
- Prohibit opaque sub-contracting arrangements in the aged care sector
- Provide emergency payments to staff suffering significant financial hardship
- Assist employees to secure immediate alternate employment
- Significantly enhance the aged care regulatory framework to ensure transparency and accountability for federal funding.
"What has happened at Earle Haven is a national disgrace," Ms Mohle said
"It comes to no surprise to me that the state's 350 nurses and midwives here today have voted to support this emergency and extraordinary motion.
"While the situation at Earle Haven is out of the ordinary, the situation there highlights the problems facing elderly Australians in private aged care facilities almost everywhere.
"On the day the Earle Haven closure occurred, one Registered Nurse was rostered on to care for 68 residents.
"This is not abnormal in Australian private aged care. It's not even illegal in Australia.
"The QNMU have repeatedly called on the federal government to stop the pain, suffering and premature deaths of elderly Australians due to under-staffing and the dangerous under regulation of Australian private aged care.
"The federal government has the power to make this change. But they have repeatedly refused to do so."
In Australia there are no federal laws that determine how a private aged care facility should be staffed, or that even one Registered Nurse be on site at all times.
There is also no public reporting around how private aged care providers spend the more than $17 billion in federal taxpayer funds they receive every year from the federal government
The QNMU wants immediate action to see safe staff to nurse ratios put in place in Australia's estimated 2000 private aged care facilities. The QNMU also wants to see public reporting of how taxpayers funds are spent, staff numbers and skill mix at individual facilities and public reporting of any adverse incidents that result in resident injuries, illness or deaths.
Queensland has around 400 private aged care facilities between Cairns, Cloncurry and Coolangatta.
Tens of thousands of elderly Australians reside in private aged care facilities. It is currently not illegal to leave elderly residents without a Registered Nurse overnight or during the day.
"If issues in Australia's private aged care industry aren't addressed now, elderly Australians will continue to die prematurely," Ms Mohle said.
"They will continue to experience unnecessary pain and suffering due to chronic under-staffing in almost every community.
"The federal government needs to act now to protect elderly Australians everywhere."
18 July 2019.