The Health Workers Union has asked a regional Victorian aged care home to bring in the Australian Defence Force to address “urgent” staff shortages.   

Key points:

  • The HWU is calling for ADF support at the Lyndoch Living nursing home in Warrnambool
  • The union says the aged care home is at a crisis point with staffing levels
  • Lyndoch Living and the federal government have been contacted for comment

Warrnambool's Lyndoch Living has been under fire since local MP Roma Britnell used State Parliament to level bullying and intimidation allegations against the centre's CEO, Doreen Power. 

Ms Power, who is currently on leave, was this week replaced on an interim basis by Jamie Brennan, an executive director at South West Healthcare. 

The announcement came as a leaked cultural review from 2020 revealed 10-15 staff made similar bullying allegations towards Ms Power. 

Now, the HWU is shining the spotlight on what it says is a “crisis” level of “chronic understaffing” at the home. 

The union wrote to Lyndoch Living board chair Sue Cassidy last week, urging her to request ADF assistance from the Commonwealth to ease the pressure on the centre's workforce. 

HWU Victorian state secretary, Diana Asmar, said requesting ADF assistance was not a common occurrence, citing past examples related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We've asked for it in the past with St Basil's [Aged Care Home] when they came in there which needed to be done, we've asked for it in Epping Gardens which needed to be done,” Ms Asmar said. 

“We're asking for it at Lyndoch right now, it has to be seriously considered and acted upon.

“You can't have all these residents without the care. Without the staff there is no care.”

It was revealed late last month that defence force personnel would continue to be able to support aged care residences until the end of September. 

As a result, it's understood up to 250 general duties personnel could be deployed to facilities across the country.

Lyndoch Living and Ms Cassidy have been contacted for comment.

Crisis level staffing

The ABC has seen the letter that was sent to Ms Cassidy, which details four occasions where it's alleged one staff member was looking after more than 20 residents.

On one occasion, the letter states, one worker was required to look after 23 residents alone — at a time when more than half the ward's residents were COVID positive.

Health Workers Union calls for ADF assistance at Lyndoch Living aged care in Warrnambool amid staffing 'crisis'

Lyndoch Living appointed a new interim chief executive this week.(ABC South West Victoria: Matt Neal)

Ms Asmar said she had been inundated with messages from members who were burned-out amid staffing shortages.

“Lyndoch Living needs a total clean-up,” she said. 

“They've said everything is okay, when the fact of the matter is nothing is okay. 

“It really is a dog's breakfast.”

Staffing and pay levels for aged care workers remain key issues in the sector, according to the Aged and Community Care Providers Association.

“The reality is too many aged care facilities and home care services are at risk of closing or a reduction of services,” ACCPA general manager policy and advocacy, Tim Hicks, said.

Last week, the Lyndoch chair released a statement in which she praised the recruitment of their interim chief executive.

Ms Cassidy said she had noted the negative commentary about Lyndoch Living in “some quarters” of the community. 

“It's important we have stability and Jamie's appointment provides us with that,” Ms Cassidy said.

“It will allow our staff to focus on what truly matters.”

The Australian Health Department has been contacted for comment.

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