Mar 21, 2023

Government says it will fail to meet registered nurse deadline

Government says it will fail to meet registered nurse deadline

The Federal Government has conceded it’s failed to meet the ambitious July 1 deadline for having a Registered Nurse rostered 24/7 at all aged care homes, breaking one of its key election promises.

Speaking to ABC’s Afternoon Briefing on Monday, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells confirmed that close to one in 20 facilities will not have the necessary Registered Nurse (RN) quota by July, including many rural operators.

“We’ve got 80% of facilities now who are meeting 24/7 nursing requirements, and another 9% who are nearly there or very steadily working towards making it,” Minister Wells said.

“We also acknowledge there’s probably about 5% of facilities, particularly in our rural and remote areas, who will not be able to get there.”

Minister Wells said the Government is working with all homes that are struggling to recruit RNs to ensure they receive the one-off 12-month exemption, which she expects to be 5% of all facilities.

But despite the efforts to help, it means Labor has not been able to meet Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s promise of 24/7 RNs in aged care within a year of being elected.

Warning signs of failure have been present since day one, and as July creeps closer, the threat of rural and regional aged care homes closing has grown. 

The opposition party has been quick to attack as the Shadow Aged Care Minister, Anne Ruston, said the Government’s rigid timeline has damaged the sector for both workers and older people.

“Today’s admission from the Minister finally acknowledges the concerns that the Coalition and the sector have been warning about for months,” Ms Ruston said.

“This broken promise has created serious distress and uncertainty for aged care providers and the older Australians that they care for.

“In their rush to tick and flick election commitments, the Albanese Labor Government failed to consider the challenging circumstances faced by the sector due to serious workforce shortages.”

Many providers have said the mandate is not viable due to financial constraints and workforce shortages, with high demand for a limited number of RNs pitting many providers against one another when recruiting.

As a result, providers that do not have a 24/7 RN in place will not be eligible for a related Government-funded supplement payment. 

“If you don’t meet it come 1 July you’re going to need to explain yourself, why you haven’t been able to meet it, and if you’ve taken all reasonable measures to do so we’ll continue to work with you to get there,” Minister Wells told Sky News

“If you’re unable to meet the 24/7 [requirement] come 1 July, the doors are open from 1 April for people to come to us and say we’re worried about not being able to comply.”

According to the Department of Health and Aged Care, the sector is approximately 12,000 RNs short of where it needs to be – although Minister Wells has said the gap has shrunk to 8,400 RNs.

Minister Wells said it will take time to succeed in attracting workers and the Government is doing all it can to achieve its 24/7 nursing goal and October 200 daily care minute target, including fully funding the 15% aged care pay rise from July.

“The workforce shortages we are not going to be able to stop overnight, [but] we are pulling every lever,” Minister Wells said.

“We are working with the [Aged Care Quality and Safety] Commission and with facilities… to make sure that they have arrangements in place.”

Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tom Symondson, told ABC the Government’s concession is a case of “recognising reality”.

He said the minority of providers struggling to bring in RNs just need more time to meet the Government’s mandate.

“I don’t think the timeframe is the critical thing here, I think it’s how we respond to those providers – who through no fault of their own – cannot meet this target,” Mr Symondson said.

“What we’ve got to acknowledge is this was a target essentially set by the Royal Commission two years ago at a time when we had no idea we’d still be in this situation now where COVID-19 was still causing an impact on our sector, but also we have an unprecedented workforce shortage.

“We’re fighting incredibly strong headwinds and just need to be realistic about what can be achieved.”

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  1. I am getting really tired of suggesting that all unjabbed nurses who were terminated 18 months ago, should be allowed back to work. I believe they have done that in Tasmania and WA. You do not hear any of this on mainstream media news channels.
    Reinstate the thousands of unjabbed nurses. Bring them back to hospitals, the community and aged care facilities. They are not sick.!!!

  2. Something doesn’t add up.
    If there are approximately 2700 Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia and Aged Care is 8,400 FTE RNs short. How can it only be “probably about 5% of facilities, particularly in our rural and remote areas, who will not be able to get there” as Minister Wells states?

  3. Not only is this the reality but now we also will see the recruiting push bring inexperienced RN’s, grads, who are straight out of Uni with no practical skills stepping into aged care where due to comorbidities and complexity of care needs required by residents who, will still not be getting the care they need due to lack of experience in a very intricate clinical and emotional area of nursing.
    There are a plethora of mature aged EEN’s in our work force who are being significantly overlooked and underpaid compared to a lot of younger and less experienced RN’s.
    Why are we not looking at using these EEN’ , maybe offer a upskill. Considering that most of US are mature age and are not in a situation to be able to complete a full or even gap bachelor degree to be an RN because of family and financial commitments.
    Recognise the skills we already have, review the scope for mature/ experienced EEN’s and help solve a problem for the industry a long with giving a significantly unrecognised group of nurses a chance to be recognised for their skills knowledge and care for the people they CARE for.

  4. The Govt needs to get out of the parliamentary cushy chairs and put themselves into Aged Care facilities and get the perspective of what Rn’s actually do in Aged Care.
    RN’s (including all Carers) do a wonderfully difficult job along with the family members who care for their loved ones. Every single one of them are doing it tough and need to be recognised with top remuneration.
    When I cared for my father 24/7 (for 9 months), I received an allowance from Centrelink that equalled $ 3.90 per “day” based on 8 hours in the day. REMEMBER I said I did 24/7 – no additional money, no penalties and no thanks from the Govt for taking that part of the burden away from the broken Health system.
    The Centrelink allowance was not even tokenism for the very difficult job I was doing.
    So give the RN’s a fair go.

    1. You were caring for your father which is commendable…but it’s not a taxpayer problem and neither it should be.
      Once upon a time knowing that you have done the best you can was reward enough.

  5. The RN 24/7 is something the industry needs but the ability to meet this without significant financial rewards it will be almost impossible especially in rural and remote areas. Unfortunately you can’t wave a magic wand and find 12000 nurse. You need skilled experienced staff who can think on their feet if we have under trained staff in these roles we will burn them out and loose them for ever. You need experience and qualifications not just a pulse or we are risking the lives of those they care for.

  6. The discrepancies between the interim and final Royal Commission reports shows that there were major differences of opinion between the Commissioners. The long-term public servant who had played a major role in developing and supporting government policy was perhaps unable to accept the findings and conclusions of the two independent judges who realised what was happening. That challenged the things she had spent her life doing.

    The first judge would have been more dominant in writing the Interim report. This found widespread “Neglect” in a “shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation”. It questioned the way the market operated and described “deep and entrenched systemic flaws”. It promised “our Final Report will make recommendations on whole-of-system reform and redesign”.

    When the first judge died and was replaced by another judge the two Commissioners disagreed sometimes publicly. They made very different final recommendations. As the final report explains the second judge tried to honour the promise of “whole of system reform”. He wanted to “rebuild” the system by regionalising it and separating it from direct government control which would have been a good start. The public servant wanted to “renovate” it leaving the existing system and its “deep and entrenched systemic flaws” intact. Governments and industry welcomed that and took this course.

    It is hardly surprising that the disempowered trained nurses whose values have been so undervalued and ignored in this system are not interested in working there.

    If this market and economist dominated system is to be rebalanced and made attractive to nurses then major changes including regionalisation with community involvement and empowerment will be needed to make it attractive again.

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