By Stephen Easton
Hopes are high among aged care nurses and nursing assistants that 2011 will be the year for long-awaited reforms to the sector, according to the Australian Nursing Federation’s Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas.
ANF members eagerly anticipate the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, honouring her pre-election commitment to make aged care reform a priority in her second term of government.
The Prime Minister made the promise during an address to the NSW Nurses’ Association at their annual congress last July, and the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, said the government would move swiftly in responding to the Productivity Commission’s preliminary report into aged care, due on January 21.
The ANF is among over 480 aged care stakeholders to make submissions to the Productivity Commission’s enquiry, and believes its findings will provide the government with the basis for sweeping reforms to the sector.
“2011 is a very important year for aged care,” Ms Thomas said. “It’s very important that if we want a robust and viable sector for the future, particularly residential care, we need some very substantial reforms, very soon.”
“We get a chance to respond to the enquiry and as a major stakeholder, that’s clearly what we are going to do. Our campaign will continue. Our members are very clear that we are reaching a point where something has to be done."
Aged care nurses are paid up to $300 a week less than their public hospital counterparts, according to a statement from the ANF, which also calls for greater transparency in Commonwealth funding for aged care and “the appropriate number of staff with the right skills to ensure adequate care for residents.”
“Unless the pay issue is addressed, we can’t attract new staff and the staffing levels will get worse and worse,” Ms Thomas said. “That’s what our members say.”
“And we’ve got to know where [government] money’s going, so that money that’s dedicated and earmarked for care, goes to care, and money that’s dedicated and earmarked for capital goes to capital.”
“Politicians understand that as a community we have a responsibility to care for everybody. I think what the government is looking for, through the productivity commission report, is a solution to these really hard questions. The whole of the sector is looking for some reasonably substantial reforms.”