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NSW inquiry launched into staffing in aged care


The adequacy of nursing staff levels in residential aged care facilities in NSW will be the focus of a new parliamentary inquiry, which will also consider the need for wider regulatory reform and minimum standards for personal carers.

The inquiry, launched on Thursday, will further investigate the impact of recent changes to the Aged Care Act on existing NSW legislation that requires a registered nurse be in charge and on duty at all times in a high-level care facility.

The future of this provision is currently the subject of sector consultation with the NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, with a report due to her office in July.

The Liberal NSW Government moved last year to grandfather existing arrangements until December 2015, while it sought advice from stakeholders.

The minimum staffing requirement applies to approximately 50 per cent of residential aged care facilities that meet the definition of a ‘nursing home’ in NSW.

The inquiry’s committee chair and Greens MP Jan Barham said a number of organisations have expressed concern over the potential consequences of a change to the NSW requirement, which prompted the parliamentary inquiry to examine the issue.

“Residents of aged care facilities are often vulnerable, and the residents and their families should be confident that they will receive the highest quality care possible,” said Ms Barham. “We hope that this inquiry will identify and address any gaps in the level and quality of care provided by nursing homes and other aged care facilities.”

Looking at wider issues of ratios, minimum qualifications

Significantly, the inquiry’s terms of reference will not only look at the registered nurse requirement, but will also investigate the overall adequacy of ‘nurse-to-patient ratios’ in residential aged care, and the regulation and minimum qualifications of care workers.

Over the past year, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association has mounted a strong public campaign to prevent the removal of the RN legislative requirement in nursing homes and last week presented a petition of 10,000 signatures to Parliament.

As part of its health policy, the NSW Labor Party announced during the state election campaign its support for all NSW aged care facilities to have a registered nurse on duty at all times, which would be enshrined in law.

Other organisations such as Alzheimer’s Australia NSW and Cancer Council NSW have also written to the health minister expressing their concerns about the future arrangements for aged care staffing.

However, employer peak groups have argued that mandating a registered nurse to be employed at all times in all facilities would be unsustainable, especially in hard to staff areas, and a waste of limited nursing resources.

The federal aged care accreditation system also replaced the need for state-based legislation, which monitors industry compliance with quality care standards and appropriate staffing levels, the state aged care peaks have said.

NSW is currently the only state to stipulate a registered nurse on every shift in a high care facility.

However, Victoria, under its new Labor government, will become the first Australian state to legislate nurse-to-resident ratios in state-owned aged care facilities.

Submissions to the NSW inquiry close 23 July.

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7 Responses to NSW inquiry launched into staffing in aged care

  1. LyndallKay July 1, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    There absolutely must be a minimum staff to resident ratio in residential aged care facilities, with a Registered Nurse on site at all times and it should be nation wide.

  2. Christina Atkins July 3, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    I have come across facilities with one care worker working between a number of units and no qualified nursing staff after 6pm and weekends. Majority of these residents are people living with dementia and needing the support not just to keep them safe but to ensure that there is meaningful interactions/activities to keep them engaged. I am really not sure how many of these facilities can justify they are providing quality care. It is about time that the Aged care Accreditation Standards are reviewed to reflect the changing need and demand of better care standards in the westernised world.

  3. Michael July 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    Nursing homes without nurses today – hospitals without doctors tomorrow. They cost more than nurses!

    Its very difficult to write submissions and for committees to reach sensible conclusions about aged care when neither know what the ratios and numbers of staff currently are and when there is no reliable objective documentation of standards of care.

  4. Arnold Markson July 15, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    I am astonished that anybody would consider changing this requirement in New South Wales! The argument that it’s an impediment to the running of a nursing home is absurd – given this has been in place since 1991 (see: http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/fragview/inforce/act+10+1991+pt.5-sec.52+0+Y?nohits=y&tocnav=y&xref=Type%3Dact%20AND%20Year%3D1991%20AND%20no%3D10 ).

    Looks like the inquiry is also looking at who gives medication (see: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/d7a6228fcc493975ca257e6f0024a87d/$FILE/2015%20-%20Terms%20of%20Reference%20-%20Registered%20Nurses.pdf ). If untrained staff who aren’t Registered Nurses start giving out restricted drugs (Enrolled Nurses can’t administer everything such as “drugs of addiction” – Schedule 8 medications) then this opens the door for all sorts of trouble.

    Even under the current system we saw a nurse burn down a nursing home to try and hide the fact he’d been stealing addictive medications.

    http://www.skynews.com.au/news/national/2015/03/09/lessons-learnt-from-nursing-home-blaze.html

    If these controls are relaxed – who knows what we’ll start seeing.

  5. LyndallKay July 20, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    Of course the ‘peak’ bodies are trying to say that it is a waste of resources, they want the money for themselves. Already, as there is no doctor on site there should be in the day at least a prescribing nurse, so adjustments can be made so as not to delay much needed care for residents. I imagine these are the same peak bodies who want to continue exploiting aged care workers and not give them adequate pay. When will they realise they it is people we are caring for and it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got you can still end up in a vulnerable position with somebody looking after you.

  6. SHARON January 27, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    I am gob smacked at this latest suggestion. .these decision makers of today are the future patients of the future. I am every day visiting my mother in a nursing home and see first hand what is the main reason for its existance. SHARE HOLDER DIVIDENDS. With the resourses available to them the staff run themselves into a state of exhaustion. The paper pushes make huge demands with little thought to residents or staff. There is very little room left to make conditions TOTALLY unacceptable. PEOPLE forget theY will be old one day. Pay back.

  7. Jen July 29, 2016 at 8:52 am #

    I’m a carer in a residential facility and I for one want to see a minimum carer to resident ratio. One carer to 10/15 residents is just not enough. I am very passionate about aged care and this industry needs to change. One of the reasons I have joined this industry is to change the staffing issues in it. 1. minimum carers to resident ratio 2. stop the ‘anyone can to this job’ mentality. If u don’t have compassion and empathy and a genuine passion for the job you SHOULD NOT be employed. I have seen so many ‘carers’ that simply DONT care. This NEEDS to change

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