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Committee recommends publishing aged care staffing levels

Aged care providers should be required to report staff-to-patient ratios for their facilities each quarter, a committee investigating the move has told parliament.

In a new report, the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport recommended the passage of Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie’s Private Member’s Bill, saying it may only be a minor step, but it is a first step.

In his foreword, committee chair and MP Trent Zimmerman said the move alone will not sufficiently protect older Australians living in aged care facilities. Still, he said the committee welcomed the “increased transparency for consumers that will be provided by the publication of staffing ratios”.

“The committee has also recommended that staffing ratios be published with additional contextual information to assist consumers to interpret the data and enable them to be in a better position to make an informed choice,” Zimmerman said.

Sharkie said while the publication of staffing ratios is not the only way to increase transparency in this sector, she does believe it will help.

“Requiring aged care providers to publish their staff-to-resident ratios by job description on the Federal Government’s My Aged Care website will assist people to make more informed choices when they investigate facilities for themselves or their loved ones,” she said.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler said it’s encouraging that the committee has acknowledged the urgent need to increase transparency in the aged care sector. “It’s equally encouraging that the committee recognised the need for registered nurse staffing to be available 24 hours a day for every nursing home resident in the country,” Butler said.

While overall supporting the Bill, the committee noted a few issues raised, including that the proposed method of reporting staffing ratios does not take into consideration differing levels of resident acuity and that it does not account for fluctuations in staffing numbers between day and night. “Ensuring that residents have access to registered nurses at all times, and especially overnight, is a key concern of many consumers,” its report read.

The committee also found that the requirement for providers to report changes to staffing ratios of greater than 10 per cent between reporting periods may create an unnecessary regulatory burden, especially on rural and remote facilities where a temporary absence of just a few staff could trigger a reporting requirement.

It also suggested that the Australian Government review the effectiveness of publishing staffing ratios twelve months after implementation to gauge whether it improved transparency and consumer choice.

Sharkie called on the Government to accept the recommendations of the committee and support the legislation.

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