Home | Industry+Policy | Push for published aged care staffing ratios before parliament

Push for published aged care staffing ratios before parliament

Should providers be required to publish staffing ratios online?

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie introduced the idea into parliament through the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018.

The private members bill, supported by Independent MP for Indi Cathy McGowan, would require aged care providers to publish full-time equivalent staffing ratios by qualification on the My Aged Care website.

Other than the name of the provider and those of the directors of members of the committee of management, no other personal information would be disclosed.

Sharkie told parliament that currently, decisions about aged care are not fully informed because important information about the level and quality of expert care that they can expect is being kept from them.

“[The public] has a right to know what they’re signing up for,” she said.

The member for Mayo said aged care is an important issue for her community. “They are deeply concerned that many facilities do not have enough staff with the right qualifications to care for residents,” she said in a statement.

She added as Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt and others in the sector are reluctant to set minimum staffing levels, her bill is a “pragmatic step forward that will make residential facilities be upfront about their staffing”.

Under the plan, providers would need to notify the secretary within 28 days if any ratio of aged care recipients to staff member changes by more than 10 per cent.

Providers would also have the option of including an accompanying explanation of no more than 250 words. “I recognise that different facilities have a different composition of residents who have different care needs,” Sharkie said of this addition to the bill.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the bill is a good first step. “If they are doing the right thing and have the right number of nurses and carers rostered in their facilities, then providers should have nothing to hide,” Butler said.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said publishing this information would not only ensure staffing levels adequately meet residential care needs, it would also allow the government and sector to identify gaps where demand for residential aged care is outstripping the supply of workers.

“Older Australians and their loved ones deserve access to information on staffing levels and mix to help them make an informed choice when considering which residential aged care provider is best suited for their individual needs,” Yates added.

The categories of qualification that would be listed include registered nurses, enrolled nurses, nurses with a Certificate IV or equivalent qualification, personal care attendants, allied health staff, and other staff members.

While COTA, the peak body for older Australians, welcomed the overall objective of the bill, Yates added ensuring that consumers understand the information offered is a complex task.

“For example, the bill only seeks to publish ratios, without publishing the actual number of staff employed and doesn’t explain why registered nursing staff should be separately published at Levels 1 – 5 which may be confusing for a consumer who would think any RN should be able to address their clinical needs.

“While COTA is unconvinced a blunt mandated nurse ratio is the best way to achieve optimal care outcomes, requiring providers to publicly disclose to consumers how their individual staffing levels achieve good care outcomes is an issue worthy of the Parliament’s investigation,” said Yates.

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4 comments

  1. Why is it so hard to get a staff ratio for Aged Care Facilities ??
    We are talking about people , elderly people in need of care aren’t we ??

  2. Every intractable problem has a simple and cheap solution that will not work. This idea adds to the mountain of red tape confronting aged care providers and is unlikely to improve anything.

  3. Staffing ratios are centrally relevant to service quality along with other important factors such as the quality of management, organisational culture, systems, skills mix and so on. Publishing them may well be a step forward but I predict will be strenuously opposed by providers not least from those in the sector with leaner ratios currently.

  4. Before the Aged care sector was privatized under John Howard there were ratios. As soon as the legislation was changed two staff lost their jobs. Privatization was not introduced for the staff or the residents or as something great for the community/society it was introduced out of liberal philosophy, it was implemented so the Liberal Government could handball the responsibility to the private sector, that’s what it does. Hasn’t this all gone well in all areas of privatization to services? Anyway I digress. With the introduction of privatizing the aged care sectors residents (now sometimes referred to as clients) became commodities and all have a financial number attached depending on the service providers terms of conditions. Howard and his government walked away and sadly subsequent governments have been reluctant to change the status quo with the exception of some minor requirements which effect staff mainly and increasingly the costs to the consumer, residents, clients grows enormously. Apparently we can give subsidies to the politicians for their own businesses (Minister Dutton in the spot light being the latest), but there is never enough for the community service such as Aged care. Continuous improvements within the standards indicates that moving forward ratio’s and best practice skill mix should keep increasing reflecting the needs of an ageing population receiving care and support for more complex needs for greater periods of time. Publishing individual business staff ratios can be a smoke screen and manipulated as we see in advertising every day and is only one aspect of transparency prospects the focus must be the social justice area of a fair society that our governments have not mentioned or reflected in their governing. How about the Aged care minister (who ever this person might be in the near future) be of good governance and lead to a win-win for the Aged, staff and the fair and ethical businesses of Aged care. It can be achieved.