Aged Care Terminators

robot-cartoonCrikey’s business editor Paddy Manning recently published aged care industry data which show that the industry is boosting profits by replacing registered and enrolled nurses with personal care workers.

But one industry leader is calling for even greater slashing of care staff, suggesting that five per cent of the workforce could be replaced by robots and technology. That’s right, soon in a nursing home near you, it’s RoboNurse! No change required in the abbreviation: RN.

Manning’s article highlighted that industry net profits grew by 159% in just one year, rising from $4.14 to $10.71 per resident per day in 2014.

The data came from a Bentley’s survey of 179 aged care providers across Australia and provides rare insight into where Commonwealth subsidies and aged care residents’ fees go in the operation of a nursing home.

On average, nursing homes spent $10.80 per resident per day on food costs and $9.83 on kitchen staff. Head office management expenditure came in at $10.73 per resident per day, which is, as Manning points out, on par with food costs.

The data shows that the top profit-making providers spent 6% less on nursing and care than average providers. These top performers spent $92 per resident per day, compared with $99 at average facilities.

Registered nursing hours dropped over a ten-year period. In 2004, registered nurses spent 5.9 hours with each resident per fortnight, while in 2014 time spent fell to 5.2 hours per fortnight or about 22 minutes per resident over a 24-hour period.

Meanwhile, personal care workers’ time spent with residents was more than triple that of registered nurses, rising from 11.4 hours in 2004 to 16.8 hours in 2014, or 72 minutes per resident per day.

Bear in mind that nursing home residents have higher care needs than ever before. Almost 80 per cent of nursing home residents have complex health care needs and require round-the-clock care. And yet, the industry’s business strategy is to replace skilled nursing staff with cheaper, unskilled care workers.

The CEO of the not-for-profit industry lobby group, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) recently called for greater use of robotics and technology in aged care, arguing that such innovation in aged care could ‘decrease by 5% the amount of people we need’.

ACSA’s views on the future of the aged care workforce are to be spelt out more fully in a document to be released in the coming months.

Although we haven’t seen the full document, the CEO’s comments suggest that ACSA is more concerned with cutting staff than providing quality care.

There is room for technology in aged care, but surely technology cannot replace human beings in care delivery.

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3 responses to “Aged Care Terminators

  1. “The CEO of the not-for-profit industry lobby group, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) recently called for greater use of robotics and technology in aged care, arguing that such innovation in aged care could ‘decrease by 5% the amount of people we need’.

    Suffice to say that the CEO

  2. Suffice to say that the CEO of ASCA is in the wrong job and has been watching too many Star Wars movies. At what point does he or those of his ilk ever begin to understand that human beings, particularly our most vulnerable, need the human touch and assurance of a kindly and suitable trained fellow human being to make their lives even a tad bearable. There is already enough pulling and tugging by robotic staff in nursing homes who are pressurised by management to perform their many tasks in the shortest time possible. After all, let’s not forget that the financial bottom line is what is paramount, not the emotional or physical well being of their inmates – opps, I think we call them residents! I think the CEO of ASCO should be sending his script to Hollywood – RoboNurse – it has a pretty good title don’t you think. It certainly will have little merit with those who genuinely care and are concerned about the abysmal conditions of aged care facilities in general.

    Until the Govt. looks upon the elderly and the disabled as actual human beings worthy of decent care, protection and consideration, the state of this country’s aged care facilities will continue to decline.
    Let them all “Walk a Mile in my Shoes”! It is not enough to tick the boxes by provide funding to the aged care and disability service providers and then for the Govt to wash its hands of any responsibility thereafter.

    Since all the submission, evidence, reports, complaints et al seems to fall on deaf ears year after year, decade after decade, perhaps a more radical approach should be considered.

    Prior to their appointment, every aged care industry CEO, politician and policy maker associated with the aged care industry should be required to reside in a randomly chosen aged care or disability facility for a minimum of two weeks, incognito and in a wheelchair, and see what it is like to be institutionalised and wait (hours) and hope for someone to occasionally spend 5mins. interacting with them, take them to the toilet, feed them, bathe them and attend to their basic needs. Once that initiation is completed, I wager that only those without a conscience or know that they are going to die before they get old or infirm, would be willing to allow the status quo to continue.

    Aged care and disability providers should –
    (a) be transparent and accountable for all the Govt funding they receive;
    (b)be prosecuted for failing to comply with the aged care standards, and heavily fined for every infringement;
    (c) have minimum care staff ratios of 1 to 5 every day;
    (d) have at least one registered nurse on the premises 24 hours a day;
    (e) have the menu planned by a qualified dietician;
    (f) undergo two unannounced assessment each year;
    (g)pay the staff a decent wage;

    and finally,

    regard the paying “residents” as human beings and not cash cows
    to plump up the annual balance sheets and line the pockets of sub-standard service providers.

    It must be a very depressing state of affairs for those wonderful and dedicated aged care workers who truly want to do the best for the residents but have to work within an industry that penalises genuine care and compassion and rewards greed and indifference.

    Man’s inhumanity to man is still alive and well even in the 21st century.

    Bridgette Pace

  3. Well said Bridgette Pace! I have worked in aged care for about 11 years and I’ve had enough! Too much work to do, not enough time to do it in and all for the pittance of a wage that they say you should be able to live on. When you are paid less for the important task of caring for people, , than for the mindless task of adding junkmail to a newspaper, you lose all hope!

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