“Ratios, ratios, ratios. Everybody will tell you that.”
This was the response of aged care resident Merle Mitchell earlier this year at the royal commission when asked to nominate one thing she would change in the sector given the chance.
The debate over staff to patient ratios has raged for years now and the issue has been front and centre during the royal commission. The Queensland state government has committed to staffing level reports and mandated ratios. However, federally, the government has resisted, and the aged care sector is equally unsure of its merits.
One issue consistently raised is the cost of adding more nurses to an already struggling sector. However, a report presented to the royal commission by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler – the Flinders University National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project report – made a cost-benefit analysis of the paper's recommendations and found that although it would cost $5.3 billion to implement, any costs would be offset through tax measures and other features.
Savings made by avoiding staff attrition is one such feature, which currently costs the sector $500 million.
One industry veteran who doesn’t want to see ratios implemented is Odyssey Health Group founder Phil Usher. He sees innovation rather than staff quotas as the solution to improving Australia’s aged care system.
“I don’t think a one-size-fits-all solution is the answer,” said Usher. “Cherry picking with mandatory staffing isn’t going to fix the problem because I think the whole aged care system needs an overhaul.”
Nursing Review spoke with Usher to hear more about his ideas for a “consumer centric” aged care system.
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