Senator pushes for a new national law requiring registered nurses 24/7 in Aged Care facilities, find out more.
The Aged Care Sector has been in the spotlight over the past several years, mostly, unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety exposed an array of serious flaws and failings in the sector over a long period of time. And sadly this was followed by some dark moments during COVID-19 when the pandemic found its way into aged care facilities.
While it has been a difficult time for the wider sector, health professionals who work in it and the residents and their friends and family, some recent developments offer hope that change is afoot.
The Aged Care Amendment (Registered Nurses Ensuring Quality Care) Bill 2021
These positive changes centre around private members bill being considered by the Parliament and come on the back of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report being handed down, which found Australia’s aged care system has been regularly understaffed and undertrained.
Commissioner Lynelle Briggs stated in the report, “One of the greatest tragedies in the aged care system is that due to the weakening of qualified staff requirements, providers have been able to reduce the number and proportion of nurses working in the system and increase the proportion of lowly paid care workers.”
The report recommended that there be at least one RN on the morning and afternoon shifts from 1 July 2022 and, from July 2024, the introduction of 24-hour RN staffing.
However, 2024 was not soon enough for Patrick, so with the 1997 Aged Care Act going through a process of reform, Patrick has proposed a more urgent amendment to change this failing in aged care.
“Currently in Australia, there is no nationwide requirement for nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty at all times,” Patrick said.
“I’m concerned aged care residents are not getting the care they need, and the care is varied depending on where they are located across Australia….proper care for our elderly is critical and it requires aged care homes to have registered nurses on-site at all times. We must also recognise that a lack of properly qualified staff negatively impacts the staff as well.”
Support in both houses of parliament
Senator Patrick’s amendment follows a similar move in the House of Representatives by the independent member for Indi, Dr Helen Haines.
Haines also put forward a private member’s motion calling on the government to mandate nursing levels and for a range of other reforms to improve aged care, particularly in rural and regional areas.
“Having a nurse on-site not only improves the care of residents, which is incredibly complex care – pain, wound, diabetes, mental health, cognitive, palliative care management – it also supports the carer work teams with timely advice and expert help,” Haines told parliament.
ANMF responds to Patrick’s push for 24/7 nursing
Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation Federal Assistant Secretary, Lori-Anne Sharp was unequivocal in her support of urgent reforms such as those proposed by Patrick.
“We applaud Senator Patrick for standing up for older Australians and the nurses and carers who care for them,” Ms Sharp said.
“A national law requiring a registered nurse to be on shift 24 hours per day in nursing homes is not too much to ask. We ask all Federal senators to support this new Bill and the ANMF’s ongoing fight to address the failures in the aged care system.”
With support across both houses of parliament in what many would see as a common-sense and long-overdue change to the approach of nursing jobs in aged care, it can only be hoped that the rest of parliament will support these admirable measures.
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