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In a surprise announcement, minutes from ENs will be included into the RN care minutes. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

EN to be included with RN care minutes

The Federal Government made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that there will be adjustments to the care minutes target to include enrolled nurses (EN)

From October 1, care minutes will increase from the current 200 minutes of direct care per resident per day to 215 minutes.

A registered nurse's (RN) care time will also increase from 40 to 44 minutes.

However, the Department of Health and Aged Care has altered the requirement, saying providers can also meet the 10 per cent of the RN targets – 4 minutes and 24 seconds – with care time delivered by an EN.

"This small adjustment recognises the important role of ENs in aged care and will improve recruitment and retention of these skilled workers," the update said.

"It will also help [providers] to meet the care minutes if [they] are facing RN workforce shortages.

"This adjustment has been informed by stakeholder feedback including from providers, workers (particularly ENs), workers representatives, older people, state governments, and the TAFE sector."

Last month, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said residents were receiving an "additional 3.6 million minutes of direct care every single day" – with an average of 201.93 care minutes per resident per day, including 38.76 by a registered nurse.

"This represents an increase of 20 total care minutes per day since 2020-21," Ms Wells said.

"This is in addition to delivering our 24/7 nursing requirement, with registered nurses now onsite 98.79% of the time, or 23 hours and 42 minutes per day."

However, only 32 per cent of homes reached both the 200 minutes and the additional 40 minutes of nurse care.

The apparent nationwide nursing shortage contributed to the low numbers, with figures from the Department of Health and Aged Care finding residential aged care faced a nursing gap of 5,918 nurses.

Since September 2022, 54 aged care homes have been closed due to the staffing reforms.

Currently, care time provided by ENs, personal care workers (PCW), and assistants in nursing (AIN) count towards a facility's total care minutes time, but is separate from the direct RN care time requirements.

The announcement is a major win for the sector's stakeholders who have campaigned for recognition of EN care.

Chief of the Aged Care Industry Association Peter Hoppo welcomed the changes and the acknowledgement of ENs.

"This adjustment acknowledges the essential role that ENs play in the aged care sector," Mr Hoppo said.

"It not only enhances our ability to recruit and retain these crucial workers but also provides critical support in delivering care requirements amidst workforce shortages.

"Not recognising the time enrolled nurses spend caring for residents as part of nursing care minutes has always been a disappointing flaw in the targets. This change is a significant first step in rectifying it."

Providers will continue to receive funding from October 1 to meet their care minutes as if the full 44-minute target is met by RNs. This means providers can still reach their full nursing target using RNs whenever possible.

The Department has also announced that from July 1, providers must meet a new RN coverage threshold to receive the 24/7 RN supplement.

"The registered nurse coverage threshold will increase to an average of 21 hours a day or 87.5 per cent of total hours for the month," the statement read.

"You may get 50 per cent of the supplement if you average up to 30 residents per month with at least 50 per cent (but less than 87.5 per cent) RN coverage.

"From 1 October 2024, you will get more funding to meet your care minutes. We will be reducing the supplement rate at this time. You may get it if you have up to an average of 50 residents."

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