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Nurses back recommendations from elder abuse report

Key nursing bodies have backed recommendations to explore the staffing and skills mix in residential aged care to combat abuse of elderly Australians.

The Australian Law Reform Commission on Wednesday 14 June 2017 released its report, Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response, which contained 43 recommendations for law reform for attorney-general George Brandis to consider.

Adjunct professor Kylie Ward, chief executive of the Australian College of Nursing, welcomed the recommendation that the Commonwealth Department of Health commission an independent evaluation of research on optimal staffing models and levels in aged care.

“We reiterate that there must be a legislated minimum number of RNs in residential aged care," Ward said.

The College said it is concerned by the trend in the makeup of the aged care workforce, which has seen a reduction in the proportion of regulated health professionals working directly at the bedside.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is calling for the introduction of a skills mix of 30 per cent RNs, 20 per cent ENs and 50 per cent AINs/PCWs as the minimum skills mix to ensure safe staffing in aged care.

Annie Butler, the ANMF’s acting federal secretary, said hours of care per day must also be addressed as a priority. “Residents should receive an average of 4 hours and 18 minutes of care per day – compared to the current 2.84 hours being received,” she said.

Butler added: “Clearly, there are simply not enough staff in aged care, with one witness reporting that there was ‘one qualified nurse caring for 85 people in a nursing home on a public holiday’. The report’s evidence and recommendations are a wake-up call for the Government, regulators and industry stakeholders to act on the crisis in aged care.

“One witness said ‘[w]e tolerate a level of staffing and staff mix in aged care that would close wards in the acute system. Despite years of discussion and criticism it is still possible to work with extremely vulnerable older people while having no relevant qualification. This should be an outrage’.”

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