Aged care staff to spend 3 hours and 20 minutes with every resident by 2023

Care worker resting in her car

Aged care providers will be expected to meet mandated minutes of care starting from next year, but staff who are already struggling under added responsibilities and severe staff shortages are asking who’s going to provide the care?

In last year’s federal budget, the government’s response to the royal commission included the requirement, to be effective from October 2023, that aged care residents receive 200 minutes of care per day from registered nurses, assistants in nursing and personal care workers.

The total amount includes 40 minutes of care from a registered nurse.

A member of HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook has written a post about her concerns that some providers won’t be able to reach the target.

“Aged care staff will have to spend 3 hours and 20 minutes with each resident by 2023 under budget reforms,” she wrote.

“I can’t see that happening,” she wrote, followed by a gritted teeth emoji.

“Without fudging times I’m not sure it can be done,” she said.

Nearly 100 members of the group commented on the post, and every comment backed her concerns.

“Add it to the list of unrealistic expectations,” wrote one member of the group. “With staff shortages as they are, it’s not possible.”

Some said they would love to be able to spend more time with residents, but it’s just not possible with the requirements of the job and current staffing levels.

“I am sure we would love to be able to spend extra time with each resident daily,” wrote one member of the group.

Several said the idea is simply laughable – one said it would be a good joke for April Fool’s day.

“Are you sure that’s not three minutes and two seconds,” said another, revealing a dark sense of humour. 

Several said politicians would learn a lot if they spent a day working in an aged care home.

Many expressed their anger at the way aged care workers are treated, saying it’s no wonder it’s difficult to attract workers to the sector and why so many leave. 

“Pay us better wages and they might actually get the staff,” wrote one.

“It’s an absolute joke – even shop assistants get paid more than us and the responsibility we have on our shoulders is ridiculous for what we get paid. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

The aged care sector has been plagued by staff shortages for years, but the pandemic has heaped even more pressure on the already-overburdened workforce.

Over the last two years, aged care workers have had to comply with added pandemic-related duties, they have day to wear PPE day in day out, they have had to care for residents suffering loneliness and isolation during harsh lockdowns, they have carried the risk of catching the virus at work and taking into their own homes, they have felt the fear of spreading COVID-19 into an aged care home, they have faced severe staff shortages as infected and exposed staff go into isolation, and they have seen residents dying of the virus.

75% of the aged care workforce plan to leave

It’s no wonder more staff than ever are leaving the sector, or plan to.

A recent survey by the United Workers Union of 1,000 aged care workers found that 75% plan to leave the sector within five years. 

The result is a stark deterioration from a 2019 survey, which found that 63% of respondents answered ‘yes’ or ‘probably yes’ when asked if they would still be working in aged care in five years.

“They rightly feel they have been left unappreciated as they deal with this crisis and deaths that have now occurred in hundreds of facilities.”

Ms Smith added, “In an environment of low pay, a lack of job security and the incredible stresses they have faced, aged care workers are saying they want a better future – and that’s not in aged care.”

More than 90% of respondents said they do not have enough staff for quality care of aged care residents. Just over half (54%) said they can’t even provide basic care.

Again, this result is a significant deterioration from a survey at the start of the pandemic, which found that 76% of aged care workers do not have enough staff for quality care.

Indeed, staff shortages are currently so dire, the government has called in the defence forces to help.

The cost to providers

Anton Hutchinson, whose family has owned Canberra Aged Care for more than 25 years, told HelloCare he “supports” the mandated care minutes, and his home already offers the mandated minutes of care, or very close to it.

The government needs to provide more funding if it wants providers to deliver the mandated care minutes and cover their costs, he said.

Finding staff the “significant challenge”

Grant Corderoy, partner of aged care accountancy firm StewartBrown, told HelloCare it was unfortunate that allied health has not been included in the mandated minutes of care.

“The general consensus is that allied health is a very important part of care,” he said.

Corduroy noted that the $3.9 billion allocated to fund the extra staff will have to be continued into the future. It can’t just be a one-off payment, he said.

“Enhanced” transparency will ensure the funds will be spent on care, he said. 

Providers will be required to give the government detailed quarterly reporting, which will include subsidy revenue, direct care costs and minutes of care per day. That information will be linked to the star rating system.

Corduroy hopes providers will also provide that information on their websites to further improve transparency for consumers.

Finding the staff to achieve the targets will be the most significant challenge, he said.

Omicron has ramped up the pressure on staffing, but “even putting aside Omicron” many regional places can’t get staff now. 

“I mean, that’s not going to be fixed,” he said.

The government needs to provide better remuneration and better conditions. 

“It’s one thing increasing the hours, but getting the staff to do it, it’s going to be a significant challenge.”

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  1. Please explain what will be done for each resident in that time. Will it be minutes counted for cleaning rooms, bringing in water jugs, coffee and cake, showering, dressing, serving a meal, picking up and bringing back laundered clothes, supplying continence pads. All these total minutes, so what else? Activities which involve groups? A walk in a garden to hopefully feel fresh air and sun on their face? Or will time be taken up filling out paperwork? It would be nice to know!

  2. The only way this can be achieved and should be achieved is with the inclusion of allied health, physios, OTs , speech therapists etc. Quality care does not and should not just address activities of daily living ie showering , toileting, meal intake, medication and dressings a person is not just the physical. This is the opportunity to achieve quality care by finally addressing the whole person ie meeting social emotional cognitive leisure cultural and religious needs by investing in allied health especially in Diversional and Recreation therapists, leisure and lifestyle staff to meet these needs and allowing time and service so the resident can truly choose what and how they spend their time / day which is what the new standards are suppose to be focussing on

  3. The aged care industry was in dire straits pre-covid. There is no way this mandated minutes of care can be accomplished. These greedy profit making businesses will cut costs in other ways if this is mandated. There could not possibly be enough staff to accomplish this. Most carers/nurses are burnt out and ready to walk. Why would you stay? Crap pay, undervalued by management, nothing we do is good enough. Lack of resources as they continue to cut costs. Frustrated residents lash out and we cop abuse by them, their families and management.

    Residents are lonely, scared and frustrated. This is totally not acceptable.

  4. We are barely able to complete a shift while delivering quality care now. How are we supposed to find these “ minutes “ per client when we are severely understaffed, mentally and physically exhausted and already doing double shift’s and staying overtime (unpaid) just to complete required paperwork.
    I made more money as a waitress but I still drag my tired ass to work every day because I know my residents need me. Having to prioritise who gets toileted and when at times because you need 2 or even 3 staff to complete the job is demoralizing. The alternative is to cut corners to allow more time but that is dangerous for both the client and yourself so you just don’t do it.
    We are so beyond downtrodden, exhausted and under appreciated. When will they see, when will they notice?
    We persevere but eventually we will break.
    Help us
    For the love of god, help us

  5. I had worked for 17yrs in aged care for Mercy Health. They restructured their roster in October 2021 and I was told they couldn’t accommodate my hours in the new roster. I wasn’t the only one that lost their hours in this roster restructure. The second one in three years. We were already struggling to do our job properly, always feeling overwhelmed and feeling understaffed. My understanding is its always about cutting corners and money, especially money. They don’t care

  6. This problem is of their own making! Tradition should be got rid of and innovation in planning and thinking should be at the fore.
    At this present time it must be realised that if they want residents happy and occupied they need to rid themselves of old rules and consider visitation by friends and family, instead of banning them. Realise that only some people wear size 9 shoes! Everyone is different and not all people get the same diseases. Some people are healthy all their lives, that’s why they live to 100+.
    Stop the discrimination!

  7. Whoever made the comment about politicians coming to work a day in Aged Care – PLEASE, for the love of the residents – DO NOT ENCOURAGE the Marketing Manager in Chief with any more of his hair-brained photo ops!!! Our residents deserve better! If the current Government cannot see the crisis this sector is in, and repeatedly refuse to believe we are in any kind of crisis at all, we need, every last one of us to VOTE THEM OUT and install a government who can!

  8. Once again we face a complete lack of transparency about where the taxpayers money goes.
    Until we can see where the money goes we cannot understand what makes some Providers financially viable while other Providers are struggling.

    It is not as simple as neglect equals profit. Some Providers are really good at caring for their staff, their clients and their shareholders; all at the same time.

    We need complete transparency, then we can see how the increased care hours will be applied.

    It is likely that a significant number of Managers will not be able to make this work. I hope the shareholders move them on very quickly and give new Managers a go.

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