Concerns that more aged care homes will become at risk of closing down when 24/7 nursing requirements are mandated in July are growing among industry stakeholders.
These concerns are especially prevalent among providers in rural and regional areas where Registered Nurses (RN) are even more scarce than in metropolitan Australia.
From July 1, all aged care homes must have at least one RN on duty at all times but aged care providers fear more reprimanding from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission as they struggle to obtain enough nurses to meet the mandated requirements.
The 11-bed Allambi Elderly Peoples Home in Dimboola, western Victoria, closed last November, claiming the mandate has made it unviable to operate.
But the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 outlines that providers will be able to get an exemption from the requirement if they are unable to meet the new regulation and for homes with fewer than 30 residents in regional areas.
Wheatfields Residential Care’s 53-bed complex in Freeling, north of Adelaide, is not eligible for an exemption and is concerned it could face sanctions from the Commission if it can’t employ RNs to work around the clock.
This week, Wheatfields’ Chief Executive, Michelle Schupelius, told The Advertiser that the Government’s “one size fits all model” showed a “lack of recognition” for Enrolled Nurses who also provide clinical care in aged care homes.
“In our region alone, it is estimated that over 50 Registered Nurses will need to be employed to meet this legislation. This is in a small radius of 30 kilometres in a regional area,” she said.
“There is also competition with several aged care facilities with acute care facilities seeking Registered Nurses.”
Aged care homes with fewer than 61 residents can receive monthly financial supplements from the federal government to help employ extra nurses based on the number of residents a facility has and its location.
But Aged and Community Care Providers Association’s (ACCPA) Chief Executive Officer, Tom Symondson, confirmed to ABC News yesterday that more and more providers were concerned about meeting the mandate deadline, stating the world is experiencing a dire shortage of RNs.
“I’d love to think that … by the deadline in July and also in October … that we could have every single worker that we needed,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to say that we will. I just don’t think that’s likely.
“It’s a very stressful time for us in the aged care sector.”
A Spokesman for the Commission told The Advertiser that a provider failing to meet the 24/7 nursing requirements was not enough on its own for the Quality and Safety Commission to close its facility.
“The Commission is unlikely to consider escalated compliance action in relation to the 24/7 RN responsibility where a provider is making a genuine ongoing effort to fulfil this responsibility and has an ongoing history of delivering safe care,” the Spokesman said.
“However if we received complaints about care arrangements at that service and/or other intelligence was available that raised concerns about its care, then the Commission would engage directly with the service to assess what was happening and make an informed decision about whether compliance and enforcement action was warranted.”