The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) have joined forces, and say the royal commission’s recommended reforms need to be introduced swiftly, or aged care residents will die waiting and suffer needlessly in the meantime.
The AMA and the ANMF are calling for the government to introduce around-the-clock RN coverage in aged care homes sooner than the Royal Commission’s recommended introduction date of July 2024.
The two peaks say the royal commission’s recommendation that by July next year aged care staff should spend 200 minutes per resident per day (or three hours and 20 minutes) is an “urgent first step”, but it is only a three-star model and should be extended.
The government should be introducing a five-star model, which requires between 242 and 264 minutes of care, or between 4 hours and 4 hours and 20 minutes and 44-63 minutes with an RN.
“We’re pleased the Royal Commissioners agreed minimum staff ratios need mandating and we urge the Government to commit to that,” said AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid.
“We believe there’s no reason why our older Australians should have to wait another three years until they have nurses available to care for them at all times.
“Many nursing homes have insufficient numbers of registered nurses, leading older people’s physical conditions to deteriorate so badly they end up in hospital.
“Conditions like urinary tract infections, nutritional deficiencies and as we’ve seen, even gangrene, could have been prevented in the first place.”
The AMA has released a new research paper ‘Putting Health Care Back Into Aged Care’, which shows that once these preventable conditions develop, older people end up in hospitals more frequently and stay longer.
The AMA estimates that, on average, people aged over 85 with potentially preventable conditions stay in hospital one-and-a-half extra days than people with non-preventable conditions.
“That’s putting further pressure on our already over-stretched emergency departments,” said Dr Khorshid.
“The AMA’s latest research shows with GPs at the heart of aged care settings backed by more nurses, our seniors get far better care, and with immediate reform, there are enormous savings for Government and the hospital sector. It has got to be a no-brainer.
“We’ve estimated that over the 12 months until 30 June this year there will have been 27,569 hospital transfers from nursing homes that were potentially preventable, costing $312 million and occupying 160,000 patient days,” Dr Khorshid said.
The Federal Secretary of the ANMF, Annie Butler, said, “Every day [the government] delays is another day vulnerable nursing homes residents continue to suffer.
“A sufficient, committed and high-quality workforce is one of the main factors impacting the quality and safety of aged care.
“Once the visiting GP departs the nursing home, RNs are the only qualified aged care staff able to provide appropriate clinical care to patients.
“So, if the Government wants to do justice by our older Australians and give them the respect they need and deserve, enabling them to live in dignity in their old age, it must provide funding for the minimum staff time standard and availability of registered nurses 24/7 in nursing homes in the upcoming Budget.
“And that funding must be transparent and accountable – with taxpayer subsidies directly tied to the provision of safe, proper care for elderly nursing homes residents.
“Currently, there is no specific regulation or requirement that aged care providers spend any of the billions they receive each year in Government subsidies on direct care.
“It’s little wonder that elderly Australians continue to suffer without proper care.”