Home | Industry & Reform | Path to better aged care: mandated staffing ratios or better funding base?

Path to better aged care: mandated staffing ratios or better funding base?

When quality of residential aged care is called into question, two paths to improvement seem to form: improved funding and mandated staffing ratios.

The peak body for all providers of age services, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), is helping forge the former.

Following last week's 7.30 report into a recent death at a Bundaberg aged care facility – which most people interviewed in the story attributed to lack of quality care and inadequate staffing levels – LASA chief executive Sean Rooney said it was vital that the Federal Government delivered a stable and equitable funding base.

Rooney said: “The Government is well aware that current funding for the aged care system is not sustainable and a national solution to pay for the growing cost of aged care is required.

“We need to design and develop a sustainable funding strategy underpinned by detailed research, analysis and modelling.

“Funding options for consideration should include examples from other countries, such as national insurance schemes, taxpayer levies, user-pays models, taxation concessions/supplements and the like.”

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said while more funding may be necessary it is not the most pressing issue, rather that is the “chronic understaffing” of aged care facilities.

The union said: “Without adequate measures to ensure that government funds are used to increase care through higher staffing levels there is no point in increasing funding.

“The federal government, opposition and all other federal politicians must stop ignoring the staffing crisis in aged care. They must stop conducting reviews, inquiries and reports and start fixing the problem by making ratios in aged care law."

But Rooney said the provision of appropriate levels of care for older Australians in residential care facilities is not as simple as the number of staff on duty or arbitrary staffing ratios.

“The needs of people in residential aged care are highly variable and, within a stringent quality control system, a flexible staffing mix can deliver the best quality of care targeted at individual care needs.

“Flexibility to adjust the staffing mix as the profile of residents changes is a very important consideration, as is the adaptability to move to new models of care driven by innovation and new technology,” he said.

All sector stakeholders agree that the wellbeing and care of residents should be priority and that change is needed to avoid incidents like the one explored in the 7.30 report. But what is the best way forward? Nursing Review spoke with both LASA’s Rooney and ANMF's federal vice-president, Lori-Anne Sharp, to further explore these two potential paths to better quality care.

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