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.Do you have an idea for a story?
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