A government committee has recommended that new laws be passed requiring residential aged care facilities to make their staffing levels publicly available.
A standing committee led by Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, handed its advisory report to the government on Friday, recommending that The Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018 be passed.
The report recommended that aged care facilities publish staffing ratios, but said consumers should also be able to measure the acuity of care required for residents at the facility.
The report said that more and more often, families are having to make urgent decisions about aged care when their loved one’s care needs have become acute.
The absence of a rating system for aged care facilities, and comparable data makes this emotional process even more difficult.
Though the committee said that more information would be required to enable proper and thorough comparisons, staff ratios were a good start.
Despite its limitations, the committee said the Bill “will increase the amount of information available to consumers. It may only be a minor step, but it is a first step.”
The committee also noted that Australia’s staff reporting regime lags the rest of the world.
“The Committee was interested to hear about reporting systems in place in the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain that allow for a broad range of information related to residential aged care facilities to be publicly available for consumers.
“Australia’s reporting system appears to fall short in comparison to these jurisdictions,” the report says.
The committee also recommended that it should be mandated that one registered nurse be on site at all times in aged care facilities.
“The Committee is of the view that there is a minimum level of staffing that is required if quality care is to be consistently provided,” the report said.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said the report was “encouraging” and commended committee for listening to growing concerns “about the impact of chronically low staffing levels in nursing homes which are resulting in unnecessary pain and suffering.”
Ms Butler said the Committee received submissions from “many residents and family members which outlined harrowing examples of mistreatment.
“This is not good enough for a nation like Australia,” she said.
The ANMF said the Federal government must act on the committee’s recommendations.
“It’s very encouraging that the Committee has acknowledged the urgent need to increase transparency in the aged care sector, particularly around staffing levels and the use of taxpayer funding.
“It’s equally encouraging that the committee recognised the need for registered nurse staffing to be available 24 hours a day for every nursing home resident in the country.”
Ms Butler also applauded the work Rebekah Sharkie, who introduced the Private Member’s Bill in August this year.
Click here to read the report in full.