Risk management has long been an essential component of good governance. The process of identifying, assessing and judging risks, assigning responsibility, taking actions to mitigate or anticipate them and then monitoring and reviewing progress is Strategic Business 101.
There are numerous tools designed to evaluate risk upon an organisation’s objectives. These explore the consequences of these risks and project the likelihood of the risk occurring. All business that aim to maintain sound operating principles apply these risk management strategies.
Staff injury is only one of many potential risks in aged care service provision. It is often listed after organisational risks, such as financial, legal and regulatory compliance, governance and board dysfunction, information technology, disaster management, significant grievance or disputes etc.
In the landscape of the age care sector, nurses and individual support workers exist in a potential volatile environment, where clients in residential and community based settings may be spiralling into a range of behaviours associated with dementia. Some which may result in physical injury to the workers.
Assuming that there are effective work health and safety procedures, manual handling operating procedures, mental health training, and incident management policies and procedures, a serious injury to a worker, can result in ongoing trauma for the recipient.
One of the strongest arguments for protecting care workers is mandatory staff ratios. Staffing ratios are a politically sensitive topic, and it may come as a surprise but the province of Taiyuan, in China, which has a population of more than 4.2 million has decided that mandatory staff ratios of, one carer to five residents, will ensure standards are met.
No doubt emerging as China is as a nation of world significance, it will embed the best practice from all countries to address how to support the world’s largest population of ageing citizens. This expectation comes from a country whose middle and upper classes have significant economic power.
In Australia, the ratio, it is more likely to be one carer to 10 or more residents. If those residents have unpredictable behaviours or are violent, the result can be catastrophic. It seems foolish to ‘harp on’ about Australia’s rapidly ageing population or the projected numbers of people dealing with Alzheimer’s and conditions related to a decline in mental acuity, surely the message has reached the ‘keeper’?
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) have been applying pressure on the Federal Government to set ‘mandatory staff ratios’ for nursing home residents. ‘Many residents are not properly fed, hydrated or safely given medication and they experience unnecessary pain, suffering and premature death’, said Anne Butler (Acting federal secretary of the ANMF)
Australia has strict staff ratios for childcare. Is it only fair and reasonable to expect that is the case with any group of individuals who are vulnerable and at risk. It is also only fair and reasonable to protect nurses and individual care workers when they are managing individuals who may have aggressive behaviours that led to altercations and injury in the workplace. We all know that this industry needs more highly trained and compassionate workers.
When injury does occur in the workplace, it is essential that all parties are supported to ensure that long term trauma does not occur.