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More than 6,000 nurses are needed in order to meet the new aged care mandates.

Aged care sector failing to find nurses

New figures from the Department of Health and Aged Care found that residential aged care is facing a gap of 5,918 nurses by 2024-25 – an improvement of only 44 from government forecasts during the December quarter.

The Australian has revealed a further seven aged-care facilities closed from October to December last year, despite escalating demand for residential services as the population ages.

Since September 2022, 54 aged-care homes have been closed due to staffing reforms such as 24/7 mandatory registered nurses (RN) and minimum-care requirements.

The sector is racing to comply with the upcoming 215 minutes of care, including 44 minutes of RN care starting from October 1 of this year.

Estimates from the Department of Health and Aged Care revealed 30 per cent of facilities had met the government's current 200 target minutes, with officials unable to reveal if homes would meet the new requirements.

"In terms of the number of facilities that reach both those targets, I guess we will have to wait and see," an official told Senate estimates.

During the last quarter, only 44 RNs joined the aged care workforce.

Ideally, to help with the nursing shortage, enrolled nurses working alongside RNs can help, as Aged & Community Care Providers chief Tom Symondson said.

“We support the need for well-designed reform that improves the lives of older Australians, but we know there simply aren’t enough registered nurses in Australia to fill available positions.

“While we are supportive of improved access to nurses, including both RNs and ENs, we have to recognise the reality of ongoing workforce shortages. This is why we’ve been calling for exemptions in areas of workforce shortage, regardless of size or location.”

The shortage of nurses has impacted rural and regional homes exponentially, and calls for a more modern, flexible, and transient workforce would be needed to help these communities.

“Providers in regional, rural and remote Australia experience even more challenges attracting and retaining an aged care workforce, including RNs," Mr Symondson said.

"Some regional providers are vulnerable to not being able to meet the mandatory requirements. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to get an RN, and alternative clinical models of care are put in place to support quality care in those circumstances.

“We therefore want to see better recognition of ENs for mandated nurse minutes and are advocating for sensible change, that both values the experience and skills of ENs and recognises the reality of the workforce we have in Australia.”

A spokesperson for Uniting said they were getting close to meeting the required minimum minutes and having RNs onsite 24/7, but many facilities were still struggling to meet the minimum.

"This struggle was entirely foreseeable given the many workforce reports into both the aged care and health care sectors identifying a severe shortage of registered nurses across Australia.

"We are fully dedicated to implementing the Aged Care Royal Commission recommendations, including minimum care minutes, effectively.

"Our approach focuses on providing the highest level of care and safety to our residents by maintaining robust workforce planning, optimising recruitment and retention practices, and adapting our care model as needed."

Whiddon chief Chris Mamarelis also said the majority of their homes had the minimum requirements.

However, with the upcoming increase in care minutes, "another 55 nurses" would need to be recruited.

"This is really challenging in some of these regional areas, but we are working towards it," Mr Mamarelis told Aged Care Insite.

"We are continuing to look at a range of measures to meet the requirements across recruitment, accommodations and relocation, fly-in and fly-out, and international recruitment.

"We are committed to continuing to provide quality care in regional locations and have no intentions of closing any homes."

Opposition health and aged care spokeswoman Anne Ruston said the Coalition was "seriously concerned" this would get worse in October.

"The fact that Labor has not only managed to reduce the staffing shortage by even one per cent shows critical failings in their approach to the current challenges," Ms Ruston said.

"I have one simple message for the minister: if the workforce doesn’t exist, reform cannot be achieved.

"It is time the government stops placing additional stress on the sector and starts providing real support by bolstering the care workforce."

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells blamed workforce shortfalls on “nine years of Coalition neglect” and poor planning.

Ms Wells said Labor was ­addressing the shortfall by funding an $11.3bn pay rise for more than 250,000 aged-care nurses.

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  1. 100% agree with the message for the Minister, she needs to stop blaming the Opposition and understand the impossible challenges the Aged Care industry is facing. The ‘pay rise’ has not made any difference in attracting nurses into Aged Care.

  2. Shortfall due to criminal idiocy. That the aged care sector still demands the third booster of an untested drug that was never a vaccine, and has killed millions , pretty well explains the issue. Add to this the refusal to pay Australian nurses a decent wage, yet spending millions to bring a foreign nurse here to work????
    Nurses are treated as crap, and have better things to do.

  3. Shortage of Nurses is generally because RNs don’t want to work Aged Care and now a lot of facilities are making the role of EN redundant .
    This is happening in many facilities across Victoria. Myself and other ENs have had this happen as facilities say that ENs are no longer viable since the change in care minutes .

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