Publishing staffing ratios with relevant data and context is required so people seeking aged care can make informed decisions, submissions into the recent staffing ratio inquiry shows.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport inquiry into the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) bill 2018, which proposes the quarterly publication of resident to staff ratios, has this week published the 33 submissions received.
The inquiry was launched on 14 September following the introduction of the Private Member’s bill by South Australia’s Centre Alliance member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie on 20 August.
Ms Sharkie was appointed a supplementary member of the Committee on 20 September on matters related to the bill.
The bill calls for greater transparency of residential aged care staffing including requiring providers to publish a break-down of staff by qualifications and to notify the Government within 28 days if staffing levels have changed by more than 10 per cent (read our backgrounder here).
In its submission to the inquiry, the Australian Medical Association said it supported the intent of the bill, however raised concerns that the data could be misinterpreted if the corresponding care requirements of residents was not included.
“While residents living in residential aged care facilities typically have high care needs, the level of care and therefore staff to resident ratios vary between [facilities].
“A facility that has a lower staff to resident ratio and few nursing staff may still provide high quality care if most of the residents have low care needs,” the AMA’s submission to the inquiry said.
Aged care peak body Aged and Community Services Australia told the inquiry that the bill in its current form did not ensure a fair comparison of providers.
“Comparator metrics or indicators must be evidenced based and designed to ensure absolute comparability otherwise consumers will not be able to have confidence that they are comparing like for like,” ACSA’s submission said.
Varying service models and types, resident acuity mix, whether providers have specialist services that require different staffing mix, different built form outcomes such as single story or multi-story complexes and the varied use of technology which impacts staffing levels are among the additional factors the current aged bill does not account for, ACSA said.
Aged care provider HammondCare, which operates a dementia-specific cottage model accommodating eight to 15 residents, said the changes proposed could result in innovative aged care models being portrayed in an “unfavourable light.”
“We are also concerned that the changes proposed in this bill could disadvantage innovative models of care that offer a different approach to conventional aged care homes, while delivering improved outcomes for residents,” HammondCare’s submission said.
Publishing staffing ratios alone “would provide consumers with an incomplete picture,” HammondCare said.
“It does not clearly show that the cottage model has an overall higher ratio of care staff to residents than most standard aged care homes,” HammondCare said.
Amendments to staff reporting
Consumer advocates Palliative Care Australia and the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia both called for adjustments to the reporting method.
In its submission, Palliative Care Australia said a key concern was that the reporting may reflect a period of the day where more staff were working.
“It would be beneficial to the community to have the ratio information for a 24-hour period reflecting both core business hours and the after-hours period including weekends,” Palliative Care Australia said.
FECCA’s submission also expressed concern about a lack of mandated reporting for part time and casual staff.
“For all part-time and casual staff, the providers should be expected to provide average working hours and numbers in the reporting period,” FECCA said.
The date and location of the public hearing are yet to be announced.
Access the submissions here.
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