E tū members in aged care are appalled to learn that the Ministry of Health are charging on with a review into COVID-19 affected aged care facilities without participation from workers, their unions, or people who live in the residential aged care facilities and their families.
The review, quietly announced in a media release on Thursday, will be conducted by public health officials and employer representatives, but no worker, union, or client representatives are on the panel.
Aroha Carney, an aged care worker in Southland, says that workers have already proven to be the important voices in this discussion.
“During the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, PPE was being rationed in my facility very strictly, purely due to low supply. It was a shock to my colleagues and me as many of us felt we were at such high risk – and putting our families at risk as well,” Aroha says.
“It wasn’t until our union fought for our right to have free an unpoliced access to PPE that we started getting the changes that we need. It shows how important union members are in decision making.
Aroha and her colleagues think that many of the current practices around isolation continue to be sub-standard.
“When new residents arrive, while they may be isolated, the staff that care for them are still going between different residents and so that contact continues. We’ve also encountered problems with new and returning residents wandering around constantly.
These residents haven’t been effectively isolated at all, ultimately putting all other residents and staff at a much higher, unnecessary risk.
“The review needs workers like us properly involved so we can explain these experiences and work with others on the solutions. We’re the experts.”
E tū Director Sam Jones says that E tū has been calling for a proper review since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our members have been blowing the whistle on issues like PPE, staffing levels, and isolation practices throughout the pandemic. We’ve been calling for a proper review the whole time. With such limited scope and representation, this review is far from adequate,” Sam says.
“To keep workers, unions, and residents out of such an important review feels like a slap in the face.”
Sam says that the review will barely scratch the surface.
“This is basically just another form of self-regulation which has proven to not work across industries which will only produce what the providers and DHB’s allow it to. Having an independent resident and worker voice is the only thing that will lead to proper preventative measures to stop further clusters developing in residential aged care ensuring all workers and residents are protected. This is not the time for complacency.”
Sam says that E tū is asking the Ministry for an urgent “please explain” and to make sure there is adequate participation in the review.
“It’s not too late for them to fix this, both to improve the current review and to make sure workers voices are properly heard in any reviews and audits going forward.”
Sam says the issue highlights the importance of E tū’s recently launched Rebuild Better campaign, which outlines a way forward for keeping workers at the heart of the recovery.
“Two of the five key principles in our Rebuild Better campaign are prioritising community health and wellbeing, and workers involved in all decisions. Full worker, union, and client participation in a much wider review is the necessary approach.
information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563
Kirsty McCully, 027 204 6354