A carer at Southern Cross Care's Glenara Lakes facility in Youngtown has claimed that understaffing is causing immense pressure on workers, but the owners say their carer-to-resident ratios adhere to benchmarks.
SCC this week announced it owed past and present staff an estimated $6 million in underpaid overtime spanning six years, prompting more concerns to be brought forward about working conditions.
One carer - who has not been named to protect their identity - said there was low morale at Glenara Lakes caused by an increasing workload, particularly in mornings and on weekends.
"It often feels like you're expected to do the work of two people," they said. "It's well and truly understaffed.
"There's been times when the leisure and health worker has had to spend their shift assisting with caring in the dementia wing, so the remaining residents can't be taken on activities. If you're in a wheelchair, it means you can just be stuck in your room for longer periods."
The carer said the facility had a high staff turnover, which was put down to "challenging" working conditions.
"We came to this industry because we want to help people in aged care," they said.
"You have got to be the right type of person to be in this industry, it can be a difficult time for people when they come to live in an aged care facility.
"But I definitely dispute that staff ratios are correct. They have a lot of what they call 'staff challenging' problems."
The Glenara Lakes facility is set to go through a standard accreditation process.
SCC chief executive officer Robyn Boyd visited each of its sites this week to meet with staff following the underpayment announcement.
She said Glenara Lakes had a seven-day roster that did not differentiate between weekdays, weekends or public holidays, and would stick to a 15-carer for 83-resident ratio, at 5.53.
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"In addition we roster two registered nurses, one enrolled nurse cleaners, kitchen staff, reception staff and maintenance staff leisure and lifestyle, pastoral care, and a physiotherapist," Ms Boyd said.
She disputed that the facility had staffing issues, including during the morning routine.
"There is not one person completing the routines, there are many clinical, care and service resources across the facility," Ms Boyd said.
"We continually monitor staffing ratios and time spent with residents."
The carer said there was a sense of doubt that SCC would fully repay staff for money owed, but Ms Boyd reiterated the promise.
"Southern Cross Care Tas has the ability to repay all that is owed to our employees and we will do so, with interest as soon as the final report from KPMG is submitted early in the new year," she said.
The company's 2019-20 annual report detailed ongoing financial issues, with the next annual report due in coming weeks.
The Glenara Lakes carer also raised issues regarding the process of applying for overtime and receiving penalty rates, including that it was confusing, subject to misinterpretation, and that junior or international staff would not claim it correctly and could be missing out on entitlements.
Ms Boyd said the form-based process adhered to the company's enterprise agreement.
"SCC Tas operates in accordance with the the EA as voted in by its work force. Therefore we have systems and processes in place to ensure obligations are met," she said. "Overtime is paid when it is due, penalty rates are paid when they are due."
SCC is "in the final stages" of upgrading its payroll and rostering system in response to the discovery of the underpayment.
Problems at SCC's Yaraandoo facility at Somerset on the North-West Coast were raised earlier in 2021, including that residents were living in "degrading" conditions, kitchen staff numbers had been reduced and staff cuts had turned the centre into a "commodity".
The centre passed accreditation earlier this year, however.
Yaraandoo resident Brian Halpin said there had been improvements in the way in which care was delivered at the centre as 2021 progressed, including better staffing levels. He said there were still occasional issues regarding food service.
He raised concerns about the introduction of a private bus service for the centre that charged residents for its use, but Ms Boyd said they still had access to a free bus, and the residents had voted to have the private bus introduced via the Commonwealth home support program.
SCC is planning to introduce the Montessori philosophy early next year for its Yaraandoo residents with dementia and cognitive impairment. It will become the second SCC facility to adopt the philosophy.
Ms Boyd said the company had engaged the services of Anne Kelly of Montessori International to provide advice and training.
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