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Nurses and doctors unite to call out government on aged care

Nurses and doctors have joined forces today, calling on the government to act now on the “crisis” in aged care.

The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (ANMF) and Australian Medical Association (AMA) have released a statement urging action now, rather than waiting for the conclusion of the royal commission in 2020.

“The government cannot stand by and watch aged care providers continue to provide poor quality care because they are deemed ‘too big to fail’,” said AMA president Dr Tony Bartone.

“The aged care system urgently needs a safe and quality skills mix of medical, nursing and care staff. The increased presence of doctors as part of the care team is vital. The government must act now.”

The group said that although they fully support the work of the royal commission, there is enough evidence of “serious and dangerous shortcomings in the system” to act now, and older Aussies in aged care “cannot wait another year for government action to fix aged care”.

The group proposed a number of reforms, including:

  • mandatory minimum staff-to-resident ratios, including ensuring sufficient skilled nurses in residential aged care facilities
  • increased GP aged care Medicare rebates for patients to facilitate enhanced medical practitioner care of aged care residents
  • expanded home care investment to allow more older people stay longer in their own homes and relieve pressure on residential aged care services.

They also called on the government to increase general aged care funding, with increased transparency in how these funds are allocated.

The statement said that “insufficient funding” is to blame for staff shortages, lack of RNs and medication mistakes, poor food and the overall state of aged care facilities.

ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said Australians deserve high quality aged care by trained health professionals, and she doubled down on the ANMF’s stance that understaffing is to blame for many instances of neglect.

“The often-horrific evidence presented to the royal commission and the stories revealed in recent Four Corners and other media programs are simply confirming what ANMF members have known for many years and are reporting to us with increasing despair,” she said.

“Underpinning many of the problems being exposed across the aged care sector is systemic, chronic understaffing, leading to unacceptable instances of neglect, abuse and too many preventable deaths.”

Butler wants more doctors and GPs in aged care, and RNs available 24 hours a day in nursing homes. She also has called on the government to urge providers to publish “the staffing ratios in their facilities and to transparently report on their use of publicly funded subsidies”, as this will allow the government to allocate funding appropriately.

“There is no need to wait. The government can start taking action now,” she said.

This statement comes in conjunction with the AMA’s submission to the royal commission. In total, the AMA submission includes 42 recommendations for improvement in the aged care sector.

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