Industry in crisis: Why exhausted aged care workers are quitting their jobs

Aged care worker Christine is exhausted. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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As thousands of NSW nurses went on strike this week over pay and staffing ratios, aged care nurses are also leading a campaign for better working conditions.

An aged care nurse from Penrith, Christine (surname withheld) visited Parliament House in Canberra last week to share her story.

“I have worked in aged care for over 16 years and love the job but am saddened by what is happening so I am leaving the workforce in the next few months,” Christine said.

“I worry about the future of aged care for the residents and want to stand up for all workers because we are exhausted and just physically and emotionally tired.”

The nurse said poor pay and lack of staff are issues that have been further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Experienced staff are leaving because we could go to Bunnings or Coles and earn more money so we are asking for a 25 per cent pay increase to encourage more people to join the industry,” she said.

“We have so many duties to complete during our shifts, everything is rushed and we don’t get to spend more one on one time with our residents and give them quality of care that they deserve.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Opposition aged care spokesperson Clare O’Neil met with the workers in Canberra to discuss their concerns.

“Both Anthony and Clare listened to us and thanked us for our work, which we were grateful for as [Scott] Morrison wouldn’t even meet with us,” Christine said.

“In the last Budget $17.7 billion was put for aged care but we have seen no difference so we want the government to tell us what has happened and to really listen to us.”

With the Federal Government announcing it would send in 1,700 Australian Defence Force personnel to assist the aged care sector, Mr Albanese said the system needs to be fixed.

“Aged care workers are overworked and exhausted. They are stretched too thin, unable to spend the time with residents that they deserve,” Mr Albanese said.

“Workers want to be able to take time to sit with residents, to hear their stories, to provide skilled medical care, to make sure they get all their meals.

“We owe it to our loved ones and aged care workers like Christine.”

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