“The complaints I have heard over the years have come from staff working in private facilities who feel overwhelmed due to the small number of staff, which means corners may be cut”.
Jenny Mikakos – Shadow Victorian Minister for Seniors and Ageing

The ABC presented a disturbing picture of Australia’s aged care system in turmoil this week, after receiving reports of neglect and abuse in aged care facilities across the country.
The program which aired on Tuesday presented allegations of shocking examples of inadequate care which the ABC says is occurring in more than 100 nursing homes.
Lateline has undertaken six investigations over the past 12 months, following up claims of patients being bullied by staff, treated with indignity, left to experience unnecessary pain, and even death occurring, because of poor treatment.
The ABC was told by one worker in Victoria – who had to look after nearly 40 high care dementia patients – that he knew he was breaking the law by locking patients in their rooms. He said he had no alternative after management had ignored his request for more staff.
Staff at a number of residential centres told the ABC that there were often too few employees to ensure dignified and compassionate care and that staff struggle to complete the most basic tasks such as toileting.
Lateline were told of shifts where one carer was responsible for 20 to 30 high care residents, meaning many were often left for hours in incontinence pads – risking dangerous infections.
Some relatives of people in aged care told the program their loved ones had been left in faeces and urine, treated roughly, inadequately fed, and neglected by untrained staff.
While the ABC stressed that most aged care staff were caring, compassionate, empathetic and trying to do the best, Lateline’s report flagged a system in crisis – unable to deliver adequate care to an ever-increasing number of elderly people in need.
With dependent seniors often requiring complex medical care in nursing homes, the program said there were less medically qualified staff than ever before, and 70 per cent of carers were low paid and low skilled.
Lateline’s journalist Margot O’Neil said that carers were supervised by a dwindling number of registered nurses who can be responsible for more than 100 patients; an almost impossible job made harder by “the mountainous paperwork they’re required to fill out each shift so management can access government subsidies”.
Health care academic and GP Joachim Stermburg told the ABC that the way the system operated, meant that ticking boxes on paper was more important than looking after people.
He warned that inadequate care could result in seemingly minor ailments which had major implications for patients in overstretched and understaffed nursing homes.
While Lateline admitted that it had become a magnet in the past 12 months for complaints about how the aged care system works, the program makers said the evidence it had received from scores of families, nurses, facility managers and former federal health bureaucrats, revealed a pattern of failure fueled by inadequate staff and training.
Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Seniors and Ageing, Jenny Mikakos told Neos Kosmos that she found the ABC’s report “disturbing”, and that it raised concerns over the Victorian government’s push to privatise public aged care facilities.
“Every elderly person deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and given quality care,” said Ms Mikakos, adding that she had been impressed with the commitment and professionalism of the many staff she had met in Victoria’s public aged care system.
“I would expect that it would be more difficult for these problems to arise in the public system, because they have nurse to resident ratios and use more qualified staff,” she said.
“This is why I’m very concerned about the Napthine Government moving to privatise Victoria’s public aged care facilities.
“The complaints I have heard over the years have come from staff working in private facilities who feel overwhelmed due to the small number of staff, which means corners may be cut”.
Reports of unacceptable care for older Australians should be reported to the Aged Care Complaints Scheme immediately, say aged care providers, who were quick to respond to Lateline’s findings.
Professor John Kelly, CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia, the peak body representing mission-based providers, said it was important to highlight problems in the system so they could be dealt with.
“It is absolutely our intention to meet community expectations across the whole aged care sector… There are currently about 200,000 residents in Australia’s nursing homes and the vast majority would be receiving very good care,” said Professor Kelly, who defended federal Labor’s recent aged care reforms.
“These introduce a strengthened complaints system and increased funding to deliver quality aged care services, including palliative care, and improved wages and training for aged care staff.”
Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), which represents both for-profit and not-for-profit aged care providers takes a different view.
LASA’s chief executive Patrick Reid said the program revealed what industry has known for some time: that there is a critical workforce shortage, recruitment and retention is difficult, and government funding does not match care needs.
In a statement to media Mr Reid said: “There is no time to wait, industry needs support but most of all government can no longer hide behind the Living Longer Living Better reform while their funding falls well short of demonstrated care needs.”