Nov 26, 2020

Victoria to spend $40m helping private aged care homes introduce staff ratios

The Victorian government is pressuring the federal government to implement staff ratios in private aged care homes, the first time a state government has attempted to trigger such a change.

They are calling on the federal government to make staff-to-resident ratios mandatory in private and not-for-profit residential aged care homes, bringing them into line with Victoria’s public aged care sector.

As it currently stands, there is no law or regulation that mandates a minimum number of nurses or carers per shift in aged care homes, a sector that is legislated and regulated by the federal government. 

Aged care facilities do not have to provide any details about their staffing levels, and typically have only one registered nurse in a management role, not direct care, often for 90 or more residents.

The exceptions are Victoria and Queensland, where government owned and run homes have staff ratios.

Victorian public aged care homes have state legislated ratios of: one nurse to seven residents, plus a nurse in charge, in the morning; one nurse to eight residents, plus a nurse in charge, in the evening; and, one nurse to 15 residents overnight.

The Victorian government’s efforts to make ratios state-wide will depend on the federal government “as the primary regulator and funder of aged care” to “come to the table”.

The Victorian government will invest $40 million to train the extra nurses and personal care workers that would be required to help private aged care homes implement ratios.

“Every older Victorian deserves care and compassion – no matter who owns the facility that supports them,” said Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan.

“Ratios are vital in our public aged care system, and we want the Commonwealth to join us in making sure they exist in every single facility in Victoria.”

How will the $40 million be spent?

The Victorian government will cover the costs of clinical student training placement for the thousands of extra registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers that would be required to implement aged care staff ratios across the state.

The Victorian government will also keep the Diploma of Nursing and Cert III in Individual Support and Cert IV in Ageing Support to the Free TAFE courses list.

The additional funding was announced in this week’s Victorian budget.

Lower COVID-19 numbers in public aged care homes

Staff-to-residents ratios provide a “safeguard” for residents and staff, Mr Donnellan said.

A statement from the Minister said if all aged care homes in Victoria had staff-to-resident ratios, they would have been better able to cope with COVID-19.

There have been more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases in aged care homes in Victoria, and more than 700 residents have died.

However, only 15 residents of public aged care homes contracted the virus, including three residents. No residents of public aged care homes died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

The low numbers are in part due to the fact that the majority of aged care homes in Victoria are privately run.

There are 612 private aged care facilities in Victoria, including 284 not-for-profit homes and 328 private-for-profit homes, while there are only 156 public residential aged care homes and aged care wards.

Nurse’s union a long-time supporter of aged care ratios

“The brutal lessons of COVID-19 tell us Victorians need one integrated health system,” said Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary, Lisa Fitzpatrick.

The ANMF has been campaigning for staff ratios in aged care for more than a decade. They describe the understaffing in aged care as “systemic”.

The ANMF is urging the Morrison government to also support mandated, minimum nursing levels and appropriate funding. 

The federal government provides the Australian residential aged care sector with approximately $13 billion in funding each year.

The ANMF (Vic) says “market forces have failed private aged care residents”. 

Image: Miljan Živković, iStock.

 

 

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  1. The ANMF campaigning for staff ratio’s for years, REALLY?? The last company I worked for put staff ratio’s in their EBA to which no carer agreed too. However, as it did not affect the EEN’S, RN’S, HR, Management, Office staff or anyone not directly in a carer role the EBA went through. Morning Shift was 5 staff to 30 residents, which included both the RN, EEN and care staff. So they could within the companies EBA have 3 carers to 30 staff on a Morning Shift, as the Nurses were there to do MEDs and Paperwork etc. Not once did a member of the ANMF or HWU consult with staff about this so-called ” good” staffing Ratio’s. If fact it gave the company reason not to replace staff on sick leave or annual leave to which they took full advantage of.

  2. I would like it made very clear when these ratios are being discussed and legislated that nurses are Registered Nurses, Een’s. Confusion lies within the industry that staff (carers who are often referred to as nurses), are not included in this figure and have a different ratio. Very important to the effective running of an aged care home in the resident’s best interests. Consideration needs to be made of the very high expectations family have for their loved ones.

  3. The frequent assertion that government run aged care facilities are superior in terms of quality of care, staffing levels and education seems to ignore the fact that the performance, and lack of compliance, of Oakden nursing home in South Australia was a major precipitating factor culminating in the Royal Commission. And it was run by the State Government.

  4. Ratios seem to be looking at RN and ENs, which is good but having one care for 15 residents to showers, breakfast, meds, beds, and activities as the activities person are on WorkCover. It is time for Carer to have ratios, just not RN’S and EN’s

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