Private owned aged-care facilities have been accused of dumping sick residents at Queensland hospitals to save money on hiring nursing staff.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union secretary Beth Mohle says the practice has amounted to a systemic failure that is putting patients' health at serious risk and letting down their families and nursing staff.
"It is a huge issue for the whole industry," Ms Mohle said.
"We've got over $1 billion in profits being made in the aged care industry in the last lot of financial reporting and yet there's not a requirement for minimum staffing or skill mix. It's outrageous."
It means profitable and not-for-profit aged-care providers can avoid having nurses on night shifts or on-call.
The situation is leaving patients vulnerable to injury and the mishandling of medication while shifting the cost of care from the federally-funded aged care sector to the state's public health system.
"This is happening at a time when the (federal government) owes the state money as well," Ms Mohle added.
Doctors and nurses working in emergency departments across Queensland are battling to cope with what they say is an increasing problem.
"They tell me that this is an increasing problem, that they are getting more and more elderly patients who in the past would have been cared for in the nursing home," Health Minister Steven Miles told AAP.
"By the time they get there the transit has caused their condition to deteriorate and very often they get sicker for being in hospital."
Dr Miles says the state government is powerless to enforce nurse-to-resident ratios in privately run aged-care homes, and has demanded the federal government introduce a mandate.
"We hear from aged care nurses that they sometimes have 100 or 200 residents to care for," he added.
Negotiations between the Labor government and the QNMU to introduce a ratio in its 16 homes are underway.
The federal Health Department says its up to individual aged care homes to set their own staffing ratios.