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Mandatory care minutes hit aged care homes

Residential aged care homes have been required to report their care minutes to the Department of Health and Aged Care since October 1, equalling a sector-wide average of 200 minutes per day per resident, including 40 minutes spent with a registered nurse (RN).

Homes have been given quarterly targets, calculated by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, based on resident needs: a higher needs patient will require more minutes, and a lower needs patient fewer minutes.

The 200 minute goal was introduced last year and became mandatory this month, with aged care providers expected to include the care minutes in their quarterly financial reports.

Chief of Whiddon aged care and retirement homes Chris Mamarelis said, overall the practice is sustainable, but new practices have been required to help meet their minutes.

"We have had to rely on agency [temporary staff sourced through third-party agencies] to fill some gaps, and that's not always ideal," he said.

"We want to see a reduction in agency staff across the grid not only from a cost perspective, but because it also impacts continuity of care."

Meeting registered nurse targets in regional areas and having a 'buffer' of care minutes to cover staff who might call in sick are some other challenges Whiddon is facing while they adjust to the mandate.

Mr Mamarelis said he is not convinced 200 minutes is a magic number that will improve the quality of resident care and raise aged care worker satisfaction, but it is a start.

"I think we need more, and I think it's one piece of the puzzle; there's many reform items we're waiting to come to fruition," he said.

"With additional funding and strategies to bring more people to the workforce, including volunteers, and looking at other ways to support care needs is really important, and we need to keep on this trajectory that we're on at the moment."

Pay increased for aged carers in June, but Mr Mamarelis said it's "not good enough" to wait until next year to see a pay rise for non-care staff.

"It's extremely frustrating that domestic employees, like people working in the kitchen and bus drivers, are still out in the cold," he said.

"They're part of the same team who are providing care services to our residents and we need to look after them and send a positive message to them."

A statement from Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson PSM said there is support for aged care providers worried about meeting the requirements, and minutes will be monitored in a "fair and sensible" way.

"It is only in circumstances where an aged care provider is not working towards meeting the care minutes targets, or there are concerns about the quality and safety of the care being delivered, that the Commission will consider taking regulatory action," the commissioner said.

"Whatever action the Commission decides to take will be proportional to the assessed level of risk and will be aimed squarely at prompting the provider to address the risk to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents."

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