(Photo from NTUC)

Long-term care workers should be better trained, better paid, and have the right support to deal with such a high-stress job

A Filipino nurse was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail by the Court on 6th March for punching an elderly, 77 year old man in his car at the Orang Valley Nurshing Home last year.

The nurse in question, Bernardo JR Perdido Ramos, was distributing bed sheets and pillow cases when his trolley accidentally hit the bed of an elderly man who suffers from severe dementia. The man started to yell at Ramos who went into a sudden rage and started punching the old man.

District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim said that Ramos’ actions were a severe breach trust, adding “We are talking about a 77-year-old patient of the home who has dementia. Yes he may have hit (Ramos)… (Ramos) overreacted, and overreacted disproportionately.”

Orange Valley Nursing Home is owned by newspaper company Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

The report of Ramos’ sentencing was shared on the Facebook page ‘Voices of Employers & Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore’. The person who shared it pointed out that patience is essential for someone in nursing, especially when taking care of the elderly with medical problems.

The user said that whether it was someone caring for their family member or a foreign domestic worker in elder care, they need patience and the know-how to handle tough situations.

One user noted that understaffing is one of the factors that puts extra pressure on nursing home workers, leaving them feel highly stressed.

This follows the results of a study by the Lien Foundation and Khoo Chwee Neo Foundation back in 2016 which revealed that nursing home staff are underpaid and overworked, with some workers having to take care of up to 30 residents per night.

The study reported that many nursing home workers are foreigners who are untrained, being paid as little as $350 a month excluding food and lodging – must less than what most domestic workers are paid. The study also highlighted that some nursing homes to not pay gratuities or night allowances unlike hospital.

It added that low pay isn’t the only hurdle in attracting capable staff. The nature of work in a nursing home – with odd hours and a heavy workload – means that many Singaporeans continue to shun these jobs in the long-term care sector.

Singaporeans do not want these underpaid jobs that require them to work much longer compared to jobs in other sectors. Therefore, nursing homes are left with little choice but to hire foreign workers. The problem is also that these foreign workers rarely receive the right kind of training needed to work long-term care jobs which are often tedious, menial, and repetitive. Dealing with elderly patients with a myriad of medical issues is no walk in the park.

The original poster on FB also added in the comments that employers and employees should discuss the job scope involved and that nursing home employees should obtain the proper certification before entering this field.

This user also raised the issue of asking for a higher salary, especially if someone is certified in elder care. So the question with this recent case is that while Ramos’ actions were definitely an overreaction, we’re still left wondering why nursing homes aren’t offering higher salaries to attract better trained personnel to work as carers?

On top of that, having a mechanism in place to ensure the well-being of their staff – a support system where employees can receive counselling or group stress-relieving sessions – would go a long way to ensuring that nursing home employees are in the best frame of mind to provide the best care they can to these residents. Employers should be aware of the high-stress nature of this line of work and do what they can to ensure their their employees are as well taken care off as the residents.

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