With the 1997 Aged Care Act going through a process of reform in Canberra, Independent Senator Rex Patrick has proposed an amendment to the new bill which would force aged care homes to have at least one registered nurse working on site at nursing homes at all times.
The Aged Care Amendment (Registered Nurses Ensuring Quality Care) Bill 2021, proposed on September 1, aims to raise the level of care provided to aged care residents, Patrick said, and will help attract new nurses to the sector.
“Currently in Australia, there is no nationwide requirement for nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty at all times,” Patrick said.
“I’m concerned aged care residents are not getting the care they need, and the care is varied depending on where they are located across Australia. The inconsistent approach leads to variations in the level of care and quality provided to residents. Proper care for our elderly is critical and it requires aged care homes to have registered nurses on site at all times.
"We must also recognise that a lack of properly qualified staff negatively impacts the staff as well."
The move was welcomed by the ANMF, who called on all federal senators to support the private member's bill.
ANMF federal assistant secretary Lori-Anne Sharp said the rank and file of the union were asking why the Morrison Government had still not implemented such a mandate, considering it was one of the Royal Commission’s key recommendations.
“The implementation of safe nurse staffing levels and mandated minimum staff time, as recommended by the Aged Care Royal Commission, will address the chronic understaffing in the aged care sector. It will stop the neglect and suffering of vulnerable residents who are not receiving the care they deserve," she said.
“A national law requiring a registered nurse to be on shift 24 hours per day in nursing homes is not too much to ask. We ask all Federal senators to support this new Bill and the ANMF’s ongoing fight to address the failures in the aged care system.”
Senator Patrick's amendment comes the week after Dr Helen Haines, the independent member for Indi, put forward a private member’s motion in the house of representatives calling on the government to mandate nursing levels and for a range of other reforms to improve aged care, particularly in rural and regional areas.
“Having a nurse on-site not only improves the care of residents, which is incredibly complex care – pain, wound, diabetes, mental health, cognitive, palliative care management – it also supports the carer work teams with timely advice and expert help," Haines told parliament.
Sharp said that her members continue to face chronic understaffing and cuts to hours, and the longer the government waits to fix the issues, the longer aged care residents will suffer.
“We applaud Senator Patrick for standing up for older Australians and the nurses and carers who care for them,” Sharp said.
Patrick thanked the ANMF for bringing this "serious" issue to his attention and said the changes to the bill would have far reaching consequences.
“My Bill, requiring aged care facilities to have a registered nurse present at all times, will raise the level of care to residents, will attract and retain new graduate nurses and increase the skilled workforce to provide the required levels of supervision and support.
“Importantly, having a registered nurse present in an approved aged care facility will improve the quality of end of life care; improve communication between the resident, family and other health care professionals; and promote preventative healthcare and address wellbeing risks that contribute to restorative care.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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