While the recent aged care focus in Parliament has been praised by the industry, the sector is concerned that the Federal Government is gravely underestimating a key issue of their aged care reform promise.
Peak bodies worry the Government does not understand just how many Registered Nurses are required to meet its Election commitment of 24/7 care in nursing homes.
In Parliament last week, legislation was introduced by Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, that aimed to “put nurses back in nursing homes”, among a number of other aged care and home care reforms.
The Bill – Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 – outlined the requirement of one Registered Nurse needing to be on-site, on duty, at all times within an aged care home from July 1, 2023.
However, aged care peak bodies believe that the modelling from Government – which estimates an extra 869 Registered Nurses are needed to meet this commitment – doesn’t add up to the actual numbers necessary to meet 24/7 nursing.
“We have not seen how the Department of Health and Aged Care have calculated the number quoted by the Minister. It is possible they have access to some additional data that we have not seen at ACCPA.
“In any case, it would be useful if they could share that information with nursing colleges, unions and providers.”
When the legislation was introduced last week, the Federal Government also outlined an exemption for meeting the 24/7 nursing requirements, but didn’t state what eligibility a provider would need to meet to be provided with an exemption.
ACCPA said last week that due to the current workforce crisis, the sector will “need some exemptions in place” for providers – especially those in regional or rural areas that are struggling to recruit Registered Nurses and other staff.
Mr Sadler told Hellocare that many providers are facing difficulties recruiting Registered Nurses who are willing to work overnight in areas where vacancies are hard to fill.
Minister Wells told the Guardian that the modelling figure was based on the large percentage of facilities that were already fulfilling, or close to fulfilling, the 24/7 nursing Election commitment.
However, Minister Wells said individual providers may have different ways of calculating how to meet the nursing mandate.
She also said that the aged care sector doesn’t just need more nurses, it needs more staff overall to meet the demands of older Australians’ care needs.
“Aged care is in crisis due to nine years of neglect and the facts are we need thousands of workers to make this sector thrive again,” Minister Wells told the Guardian.
Minister Wells indicated last week that Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, and herself will be making another submission by next Monday (August 8) to the Fair Work Commission about the ongoing aged care wages case.
Other attempts by the Federal Government to boost workforce numbers include a recently extended foreign worker program to bring over more nurses to the aged care sector, as well as the Department of Home Affairs prioritising permanent visa applications lodged by skilled foreign workers, like aged care workers.