Apr 19, 2023

‘I’m scared for my residents’: 24/7 RN mandate could quash functioning facilities

‘I'm scared for my residents’: 24/7 RN mandate could quash functioning facilities

A facility manager at a regional aged care home fears that the Government’s 24/7 Registered Nursing mandate could force her facility to shut down despite an unblemished track record.

Cypress View Lodge is located in Coleambally, almost five hours west of Canberra. With just 19 residents it can – and will – apply for a 12-month 24/7 Registered Nurse (RN) exemption, however, facility manager Karen Hodgson said any exemption might only delay the inevitable.

“I’ve been trying to recruit an RN for two years. I’ve got 19 people here who are being provided excellent care with the staff I have, why do I all of a sudden have to meet an arbitrary target when it’s not actually going to impact the care my residents are receiving?” Ms Hodgson said.

“Being a 19-bed home in a rural area we can apply for the exemption for the 24-hour RN but what they’re saying in the media is wrong.

“I have to fill out a 20-page document just to say why I should be given this exemption and even then I don’t know if they will give it to me. 

“I don’t even know how to explain the impact on us as providers, let alone on the staff and residents. The stress at the moment is through the roof.”

Ms Hodgson explained that Cypress View Lodge has always been up to standard and has never once had an issue with accreditation.

But when the 24/7 RN mandate comes into play on July 1, they’ll have 12 months to comply. It means an additional four RNs will likely be needed to fill those shifts, a huge ask for a regional home that’s struggled to find even one.

Ms Hodgson said the loss of the home would be huge for residents, staff and the community as a whole.

“I’m scared for my residents. They’ve built this community now it’s their time to live out the rest of their days here,” Ms Hodgson said.

“We’ve got residents who are fortunate enough to have family come in every day to visit them, that’s all taken away from them if they go to a bigger area. The nearest facility is an hour away.

“We’re only a town of 800 people and we employ 26 people here. What happens if those 26 jobs are lost in a small town? The ramifications for our future are widespread for our community.”

The threat of closure has been all too real for many communities across Australia already, as Sydney’s Wesley Mission announced its three homes will close at the end of May, leaving 200 residents with just over one month to find new accommodation. 

Perth’s Brightwater is also shutting down three of its 12 homes, impacting 75 residents, while Byron Bay and Bundaberg have also been hit hard by impending residential aged care closures.

“I just spent six weeks trying to find a facility to transfer a resident to, I can’t even imagine the job of finding 200 beds,” Ms Hodgson said.

“It’s just heartbreaking to think of what they’re going through let alone the staff that are losing their jobs.”

With many operators struggling to meet staffing requirements and compliance standards in ageing facilities, Ms Hodgson said the limited number of experienced RNs needs to be saved for facilities that need them the most.

She said that even if her home was successful in recruiting RNs, the financial toll could still be damaging.

“In order for me as a 19-bed to staff 24-hour registered nurses, I would need at least another four Registered Nurses,” she said.

“We’re already running at a loss like most facilities around Australia but my funding doesn’t change if I was to miraculously find those four nurses.

“It’s not that I don’t want an RN, but the use of that absolutely vital resource here at my 19-bed facility is not a good use of that resource.

“We provide nurses during the day, either on staff or through an agency, and we have got a nurse on call 24 hours a day. But in terms of 24-hour support, my residents just don’t need that.”

If Ms Hodgson’s facility successfully receives an exemption, the additional 12 months may only delay the inevitable. 

Instead, she said Enrolled Nurses (EN) in aged care need to be recognised as critical while doing away with the rigid mandates for residential aged care providers would prove beneficial. 

“The Government’s completely forgotten about ENs and the vital role they play in aged care and that’s just getting swept under the carpet,” she said.

“I can train my staff a lot quicker to be an EN and an aged care worker with 15 years of experience as an EN is far more valuable to my residents than a first-year graduate RN. 

“It’s just they have so much experience in aged care that is absolutely vital to wound care, caring for my residents, and providing direct personal care than a registered nurse right out of university.”

But with the impending deadline of July 1 for 24/7 RNs, and additional care minute quotas introduced in October, many aged care providers in metropolitan and regional areas are going to be battling to stay afloat if the Government does not provide additional support or flexibility.

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  1. Yes and no funding should they get the exemption, like al.ostl half a million dollars, which they will need. Dammed if u do and dammed if u don’t.

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