In the past few weeks there has been rising concern in the Gloucester community about the staffing numbers for the new nursing home currently being built by Anglican Care.
Residents in the current facility have indicated in letters to the editor published in the Gloucester Advocate that the staff are unaware of what the future holds for their employment. Members of the Gloucester branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) also raised concerns about a drop in the level of care with plans to hold a public rally to gain support, however due to the COVID-19 health recommendations, the rally was cancelled.
In a press release issued by NSWNMA, general secretary, Brett Holmes said a comparison of residents' current nursing care hours at the current Gloucester Hospital facility against new rosters proposed by Anglican Care show a significant reduction.
"These aged care residents will lose more than 150 hours of nursing care a week, which is approximately five full-time equivalent registered nurses and a further three full-time equivalent enrolled nurses or assistants in nursing," Mr Holmes said.
"This is worrying for the ongoing health and wellbeing of the aged care residents and their families, as well as the nursing staff, should they transfer to Anglican Care's new purpose-built facility."
The new facility is due to open at the end of October and Anglican Care chief executive officer, Colin Osborne has confirmed the new nursing home will run under a different staffing model.
"Our facility will take fewer staff to run it in a contemporary way than it is currently at Gloucester hospital," Mr Osborne explained.
According to Mr Osborne, the current facility is run under an acute care public hospital model as is required by Hunter New England Health, but that this is different to other nursing home models.
"The current conditions of the Gloucester facility are different from mainstream Australia as it evolved out of a critical care environment," he said.
While there is not currently a prescribed staffing model for private nursing homes, Mr Osborne said Anglican Care aims to pitch its staffing to fit within the benchmark, wavering between financially viable and ensuring quality care.
Mr Osborne has confirmed that the qualifications of staff in regard administering required medications and procedures is different in the private model versus the hospital model, meaning registered nurses are not necessarily required as frequently as they are in the current facility.
According to Hunter New England Health executive director, greater metropolitan, Karen Kelly, there are presently 38 residents in the Kimbarra and Hillcrest units who will be accommodated in the new 50 bed facility.
"Decisions about staffing levels at the new facility are at the discretion of Anglican Care. However, Hunter New England Health is committed to supporting the ongoing employment of as many of our Gloucester aged care staff as possible, either with Anglican Care in its new facility, or through alternative roles within our district," Ms Kelly said.
"We hope that many of our staff will continue to care for our residents at the new centre. We are keeping staff and union representatives closely informed, and are committed to working with the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association to address the matters they have raised," she said.
Ms Kelly said HNEH will ensure their staff continue to be supported throughout this transition, and that it has started to have one-on-one meetings with affected staff members individually to discuss their options and preferences for future employment.
Mr Osborne has high hopes to see Anglican Care pick up home care packages in the region as it's already an approved provider. He said this would be another avenue for employment for aged care staff.
Federal member for Lyne, David Gillespie has been an avid supporter of the new facility and lobbed to provide federal funding to help see the $20 million project come to fruition.
"All aged care facilities are required to meet the highest standards of care under the relevant statutory guidelines, and I look forward to this community being able to benefit from a wonderful new facility that delivers the latest quality standards and practices for aged care and retirement living in the country."