Linda Hardman has worked in aged care for 20 years, and says it's never been tougher.
The Kiama assistant-in-nursing hasn't lost her passion for her role, but she's lost faith in a system which she says is letting down staff - and residents.
She was among a small, but strong, gathering of nurses at Kiama's Coronation Park on Monday hoping to send a message to Canberra as part of a statewide campaign by the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.
Over the coming weeks, aged care nurses across NSW will hold rallies to highlight the need for staffing ratios and greater transparency of government funding.
"We need to see a vast improvement in the aged care sector - including legal minimum staffing and a mix of skills," Mrs Hardman said.
"Because of the government's ageing in place scheme - where people are encouraged to stay home for longer - when they do enter a facility they tend to have more complex issues.
"And we need enough staff on the floor to deal with those complex care needs. We need a good mix of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and assistants-in-nursing - and we need staff ratios so we can spend more time with each resident."
Mrs Hardman said NSWNMA members also wanted to see more accountability in government funding.
"We need to know where all the money is going - we need to see government funding linked to direct care and staff wages," she said. "If the wages improve, we'd attract more people to the sector and they would stay."
There also needed to be mandatory ongoing skills development, paid by employers, to ensure a fully trained and skilled workforce.
The Royal Commission in Aged Care Quality and Safety will hand down its final report by February 26, and the NSWNMA is calling on the Morrison Government, and all political parties, to act on the recommendations.
NSWNMA Acting General Secretary Judith Kiejda said the aged care sector had been ignored by governments for too long.
"The Morrison Government must act now to mandate staffing ratios. This isn't just a national emergency - it's life and death," she said.
"Aged care nurses have been on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. We urgently need sufficient staffing levels and skills mix, to cope with the intensified demand and workloads.
"The tragedies we saw in NSW and Victorian nursing homes during the pandemic last year clearly show why aged care providers must be legally required to have minimum staffing and skills mix.
"Aged care has suffered from chronic and widespread understaffing and a lack of transparency in how funding is spent."
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