Jan 09, 2023

Allied health in aged care petition gathers momentum

Allied health in aged care petition gathers momentum

A petition calling for mandated Allied Health and Enrolled Nurse (EN) care minutes in aged care has attracted over 11,600 signatures in the past week and its creator is ready for the Government to act.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Principal Physiotherapist of Allied Aged Care (AAC), Alwyn Blayse, launched the petition Bring back nurses, physios and allied health for our mums and dads in aged care one week ago, calling for:

  • ENs, allied health professionals and physiotherapists to separately count towards required care minute quotas
  • Providers to pay the wages of ENs, allied health professionals and physiotherapists working required care minutes
  • Clarification of additional service fees for allied health service items that are over and above what is clinically required

Mr Blayse said a greater investment into allied health would increase the number of allied health services aged care residents receive to reflect the daily 22 minutes of allied health care the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was told is necessary.

According to StewartBrown’s September 2022 Aged Care Financial Performance Survey Report, aged care residents receive an average of just 6.36 care minutes per day from allied health professionals, including physiotherapists, podiatrists, dietitians and occupational therapists.

“What we all know is if you don’t have a certain number of dedicated minutes you can’t have care, no matter who’s providing it,” said Mr Blayse.

“The equivalent of a couple of minutes of care per day is not enough for all allied health professionals to look after some complex needs.

“If you look at what we have right now, we’re [providing] a quarter of what the Royal Commission said was inadequate two years ago.

“[There] should be a minimum for all allied health services and ENs like there is for Registered Nurses.”

There are major changes in store for the aged care sector this year, as from 1 October 2023 every aged care resident must receive 200 minutes of direct care per day including a mandated 40 minutes of Registered Nurse (RN) time. 

But without the explicit requirements for ENs and allied health professionals in the remaining 160 minutes, some aged care providers have already made changes to the makeup of their workforce in an effort to reduce costs.

Southern Cross Care Tasmania announced a redeployment of its ENs and replaced them with less qualified personal care workers as part of their new model of care, with other providers reportedly set to follow suit.

In addition, Allied Health Professions Australia revealed 75% of allied health workers have seen their hours cut since last October when the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) was introduced. 

The AN-ACC provides funding to aged care homes based on the level of needs of each resident – with allied health services unable to receive this funding.

Mr Blayse said more providers would prioritise allied health services if they were mandated in the daily care minute requirements or counted in the new aged care Star Ratings system.

“Aged care providers are big believers in allied health but they’re asking where is the incentive? They have to prioritise their RNs because that does count,” explained Mr Blayse. 

“It shows that incentive-based requirements work but you really have to incentivise all clinical care then.

“Just change the Aged Care Act to mandate that this should always be done for residents. 

“We all recognise that the aged care reforms are an improvement but clinically they’ve just underestimated the financial reality.”

Mr Blayse also implored the Government to make changes now as next year could be too late to retain the 30% of allied health professionals and half of the total aged care workforce that is expected to leave the sector. 

“I’ve had messages this week from providers talking about cutting [allied health] minutes and it’s just all continuing,” said Mr Blayse.

“Some Government officials have the ‘wait and see’ approach but that hasn’t been working too well, it’s become an urgent issue. 

“We just don’t have a year or two to wait – we have people leaving the industry now. 

“I get disheartened when I hear people say we should look at something in a year’s time, when is too late for an older person living in an aged care home?”

Mr Blayse said he hopes to present the Senate with his petition in the coming weeks.

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  1. I am an Enrolled Nurse for more than 15 years in aged care and I love my relationship with my residents and I love what I am doing. But because of the care minutes (which nobody perfectly understands, even the facility managers) I had been slowly sucked off from my passion.
    I always have a heavy heart when I train new RNs who will just take my place and cannot even give quality care to the my residents.
    The Aged Care Commission should give more attention to the role of Enrolled Nurse in Aged Care facility.
    Most of us are In Charge of the shift. The CCC, FM, GPs, residents, significant others, etc depends on us to deliver quality care to the consumers. We almost do every clinical care including managing staffs and making NOKs satisfied of the care for their loveones. RNs are more on paperworks for funding. But ENs effort hadn’t been recognised seriously by the commission. We are all doing good and noble job more than the RNs I guess, so I am hoping Aged Care Commision will not change our position in the Aged care setting scene.
    I am NO to care minutes!
    I am YES to ENs in aged care!

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