Serious crisis looming in aged care unless conditions change

01 September, 2009

The LHMU, the union representing Queensland Health (QHealth) carers, has predicted a serious crisis in the provision of care unless conditions for workers in the industry are addressed urgently.

Many workers in QHealth’s Home and Community Care (HACC) service are struggling to make ends meet on part-time salaries, despite repeated requests for more hours.

Most are allocated hours in the range of 16 to 34 per week.

“The key claim for HACC members during their most recent enterprise bargaining negotiations was simply for more work,” LHMU Assistant Secretary Michael De Brenni said.

“This is a common problem we see across many of the low-paid care industries our Union covers and, all too often, it ends up with workers leaving the profession.

“Instead of allocating extra hours to existing staff when they become available, QHealth employs additional staff to cover the hours.

“While QHealth has indicated it will look at the problem, there are still hundreds of workers in this profession desperately struggling to make ends meet.

LHMU member and home care worker Lorraine Cain, based in Rockhampton, constantly feels the pinch of limited part time hours.

“I would be more than happy to take on additional hours,” Cain said.

“Not knowing for certain just how many hours you’re going to get in any given week means you’re always worrying about whether or not you’re going to have enough money to pay the bills.”

LHMU will be talking with all QHealth HACC workers over the next few months about what sort of provisions they would like to see in place that might help them achieve a better quality of life.

“However, it’s up to QHealth to make that a reality by cooperating with us and the workers to make it happen,” De Brenni said.

Queensland’s HACC workforce provides an essential community service to tens of thousands of Queensland clients, most of who are elderly women (over 65 years), living alone and with no other source of care or support.

There are approximately 157,400 HACC clients in Qld – 40 percent of them in regional areas – serviced by a workforce of 1180 home carers employed by Queensland Health.