Home | Industry+Policy | Albo comes out for minimum staff levels, union pushing Medicare rise to fund aged care
The Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during his address to the national Press Club in Canberra. Photo: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Albo comes out for minimum staff levels, union pushing Medicare rise to fund aged care

In a departure from the policies taken to the last federal election, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has come out in favour of minimum staffing levels in aged care.  

Speaking to the National Press Club, Albanese decried the state of affairs in the sector and blasted the current aged care minister Richard Colbeck.

“There are few greater indictments on this Government than Minister Colbeck’s performance last week before the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 led by Katy Gallagher,” said Albanese.

 “As he fumbled about with pieces of paper, it became clear that even the absolute basics of his job were beyond him.

“We saw the heights of his ineptitude.”

He hit the government for funding cuts to the system, such as the 1.7 billion stripped from the sector by Scott Morrison when he was treasurer. He also took aim at the revolving door nature of the aged care portfolio while the liberal party have been in power.

“As a distillation of the Liberal ethos – deregulation to the point it’s almost the law of the jungle – it’s hard to top.

 “They have churned through seven ministers with responsibility for aged care – one for every year they have been in power.

 “The incumbent doesn’t even sit in the Cabinet. And this week he was effectively demoted,” he said.

Albanese laid out Labor’s eight-point plan for addressing the massive failings of the system, and top of the list is mandating staff to resident ratios.

“In the absence of a Government plan, here are eight points the Government could consider:

  1. Minimum staffing levels in residential aged care.
  2. Reduce the home care package waiting list so more people can stay in their homes for longer.
  3. Ensure transparency and accountability of funding to support high quality care.
  4. Independent measurement and public reporting as recommended by the Royal Commission this week.
  5. Ensure every residential aged care facility has adequate personal protective equipment.
  6. Better training for staff, including on infection control.
  7. A better surge workforce strategy; and
  8. Provide additional resources so the Aged Care Royal Commission can inquire specifically into COVID-19 across the sector while not impacting or delaying the handing down of the final report.”

Medicare levy an option for funding

One funding option continually put forward as a fix for aged care is a Medicare levy and appearing on ABC’s Insiders, Albanese did not rule this out.

“We’ll examine the royal commission when it comes out with regard to structural change that’s required,” Mr Albanese said.

“But I make this point … Labor oversaw the creation of Medicare to deal with our health system as a whole.”

The Health Services Union has called for a Medicare levy hike to pump up to $20 billion into Australia’s crisis-hit aged care sector.

HSU modelling shows lifting the levy from two per cent to 2.65 per cent would transform the sector over four years.

“Australians have a clear choice,” the union’s national president Gerard Hayes said on Monday.

“We can provide dignity and decency to the generation that built this nation. And we can do it for a reasonably modest outlay.”

The plan would create 59,000 jobs across the sector, which has come under immense pressure during the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of resident deaths.

Lifting the levy would also improve standards for residents who would receive an extra 89 minutes of daily attention from carers, allied health therapists and registered nurses.

However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was quick to pour cold water on the union’s plan.

“We have no plans to do that. Our focus is on lower taxes,” he told Sky News.

“We do commit to spending more on aged care by the tune of $1 billion a year.”

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3 comments

  1. All very good and well, Mr Albanese, but what about mandated Nurse to Patient ratios. Staffing levels are vague – more carers and less qualified staff? Standards will never improve until Registered and Enrolled nurses’ roles are prescribed and enforced, and in suitable numbers that attract skilled staff back into this sector where they are desperately needed. With wages that reflect the skills and qualifications required. As we can sadly see now.

  2. Rosemary Oates RN RMN RGerN DNA

    Thank you Mary……you are absolutely right !!
    All the money in the world will NOT fix this horrific problem…
    Professional staff skills mix & proper supervision will be the solution, together with mandated ratios so ALL aged care facilities can function on a proper & measured baseline, which then is able to be properly budgeted.

  3. How can a royal commission for health state that a 1:4 Ratio in hospital is a safe ratio for patient and staff safety but in aged care can be 1 RN for 30/50/100/150 residents patients and 1 care staff to 10/20/30/40 residents at any given time…………RN’s in aged care are capped at 5th year wages and have a lower base rate than public health yet we are a publicly funded sector..The government has effectively funded private organisations to make a profit from public funding at the expense of staff and residents.
    I work in a 30 bed “Nursing home with staffing is funded on thirty residents …..17 of my residents are 2 assist for all care and mobility ,,, accuity is not taken into account…we have wandering aggressive dementia residents mixed in because our organisation refuses to recognise that theses residents should be in a dementia specific unit and allows them to wander free interfering with other residents with aggression a common occurrence……..the government stripped $6000 a resident of us in 2018 and increased our standards of reporting leaving us at frantic often distressing situation having to manage documentation with antiquated computers and programs yet when accreditation comes around it is our fault that there are holes in consumer standards………………….The aged care minister and anyone responsible for aged care including the aged care commission should be “Sacked and actually have clinically trained nurses in charge as they do in the hospital system … not bureaucrats and bean counters… who really don’t know what they are doing …its like having electricians judge plumbers its not there field of expertise …note the funding system currently in place nearly takes more to run than it gives to residents.. they want to know if we put toothpaste on a brush because if not we have been giving that resident to much it is a joke lol…. and if not addressed correctly will be our GREATEST SHAME…… SHAME ON YOU SCOMMO …FIX IT AND FIX IT NOW….WITH RATIOS…. INCREASED PAY …..CAPS ON PROFITS…..AND A MUCH MUCH MUCH SIMPLER FUNDING MODEL THIS IS NOT BLUDGERS ASKING FOR A HANDOUT THIS IS ELDERLY CONFUSED CHRONICALLY UNWELL HUMANS LOOKING FOR A STANDARD OF CARE AND A QUALITY OF LIFE THAT YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED BUT DON’T WANT TO PAY FOR AND YOU JUST SHUT YOU EYES …SHAME

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