All residential aged care facilities will be required to have Registered Nurses onsite 24/7 and home care providers will be capped on administration and management fees, after the second Aged Care Reform Bill passed the Senate yesterday.
The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 was introduced to Parliament in July and has been slow to move through the Lower House and Upper House compared to the first Aged Care Reform Bill – Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 – that was introduced and passed in early August.
This latest legislation includes:
Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, said that this legislation passing was a huge step towards restoring “dignity and humanity” in aged care and will bring the country closer to delivering the care older Australians deserve.
“This legislation demonstrates our commitment to making public what aged care providers are spending their money on, ensuring a fair and transparent system for our older Australians, their families and carers,” said Minister Wells.
“This will be supported by the initiatives we have in place to grow the workforce and boost the skills of aged care nurses.
“Transparency is paramount to care recipients’ informed choice and control, and we want to see taxpayer funds being spent on what they are meant for, which is improving the care of older Australians.”
The passing of this Bill has been welcomed by industry, advocacy and law peak bodies, following important amendments recommended by the sector.
The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) is glad to see this reform come into law, creating greater protection for older Australians accessing aged care.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OPAN, Craig Gear, said that speeding up the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s timeline for “round-the-clock” Registered Nurses will ensure older people get the right level of care.
“Older people’s increasing health complexities require staff with the corresponding level of health and medical skill. And we know health-related incidents don’t only occur during the day,” explains Mr Gear.
Mr Gear added that there was a need for exemptions under the 24/7 mandate for limited circumstances, including regional, rural and remote facilities that are unable to recruit staff with the right skills – however, these providers need to demonstrate the use of other supports like telehealth services.
OPAN also wants to see the information on nursing exemptions made publicly available and easily accessible for older people and their families and carers.
The new legislation has specific requirements of a 12-month limitation on exemptions for providers, which will ensure regular reviews of these exemptions.
Additionally, OPAN is thrilled to see Home Care Package exit fees are now banned and that there will be caps on administration fees and management costs.
Mr Gear explained that one of the most frequent complaints OPAN advocates received was around these fees, which caused major alarm for older people.
CEO of Aged and Community Care Providers Australia (ACCPA), Tom Symondson, also expressed that ACCPA has welcomed this legislation and its place within aged care.
“[This is] an important step along the road to fixing Australia’s aged care system and realising the vision set out by the Royal Commission,” said Mr Symondson.
The Law Council of Australia also commended the Government on the passage of the Bill, stating it implements key recommendations from the Royal Commission while taking on feedback from industry experts.
In particular, the Law Council was glad to see the amendments made in the Bill during the debate stage, which strengthened the legislation.
Before getting through the Senate, this second Bill faced a lot of criticism and scrutiny due to lacking clarity around how some of the provisions in the legislation would impact the sector, but these questions appear to have been answered before the Bill passed yesterday.