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State govt asks all Qld providers to publish staffing levels


The Queensland premier has announced new laws to mandate minimum nurse-to-resident ratios and minimum contact hours by particular care staff in state-owned aged care facilities.

The proposal also includes asking all residential aged care facilities in the state to publish their staffing levels publicly to increase transparency and identifying those who don’t, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said at a press conference on Friday.

Ms Palaszczuk announced the reforms in the wake of the recent closure of Earle Haven Retirement Village and on the same day Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck announced an independent inquiry into its unexpected closure (read more here).

Under the incoming laws, Queensland’s 16 state-owned residential aged care facilities will be required to provide a minimum of 3.65 contact hours per resident, said Ms Palaszczuk, who committed to introducing nurse-to-resident during the 2017 election.

Annastacia Palaszczuk

Residents will be required to receive 50 per cent of that contact from personal care workers or assistants in nursing, 30 per cent from registered nurses and 20 per cent from enrolled nurses, a spokesperson from the Queensland government told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“We want to see that there are minimum standards when it comes to contact hours with our nurse and our aged care workers across our state, this will be an Australian first,” Ms Palaszczuk said at the press conference.

She said she wanted a public register so families and friends could look at a particular aged care facility and see very clearly whether it offered minimum contact hours.

Queensland’s state-owned facilities will begin quarterly reporting of staffing levels later this year. The figures will be published on a new government website being developed to help consumers compare aged care facilities.

To increase transparency and accountability, Premier Palaszczuk said they would ask all aged care facilities in the state to publish their staffing levels under the reform.

While non-state owned facilities cannot be compelled to comply with the request because they fall under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction, Ms Palaszczuk said they would publicly identify them.

“If they choose not to, we won’t be afraid to reveal the identity of those unwilling to do the right thing by elderly Queenslanders,” she said.

All aged care facilities will be listed on the website and the staffing level field will be blank for those that do not report their numbers, Premier Palaszczuk said.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said it made sense that public and private facilities were on the same playing field when it came to transparency and accountability.

“Staffing is a vital factor when making such a decision – you want to know there are enough people working at the facility to ensure it is providing appropriate care and that staffing levels are safe,” he said.

The Queensland government said it would consult with the broader aged care industry, aged care peak bodies and the Commonwealth Department of Health over the new legislation.

Peaks raise concerns

Industry peak bodies Aged and Community Services Australia and Leading Age Services Australia both raised concerns that mandated staff-to-resident ratios did not necessarily translate into better quality care.

ACSA acting CEO Darren Mathewson said the Queensland government acknowledged in 2018 that staff-to-resident ratios differed across facilities based on the individual and complex needs of residents.

“As Queensland Health Minister, The Hon Dr Steven Miles said in The Australian in September 2018, aged care was ‘more than just a numbers game’. So ACSA is concerned about the nature and language of [this] announcement that seems to fail to acknowledge this,” Mr Mathewson said.

“ACSA acknowledges the call for transparency and more meaningful consumer information, so residents and their families have access to relevant information, however, the federal government is already active in this space. There is a risk of duplication and confusion.”

Sean Rooney

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said the peak supported providing older Australians with appropriate information to assist them, but said other measures were more useful for the public.

“LASA’s view is that outcome-based measures, particularly those based on direct consumer feedback, are likely to be most useful for consumers to identify which services will best meet their needs,” Mr Rooney said.

“Furthermore, the number and mix of staff in residential care services is determined by a range of factors. Key drivers that determine the levels and mix of staff in residential care facilities include the needs of residents, the design of the buildings and the models of care in place,” he said.

Sharkie introduces aged care bills

Federal member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie introduced a new private member’s bill calling for the quarterly publication of staffing levels on Monday.

Rebekha Sharkie

Ms Sharkie said the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2019 mirrored her 2018 bill (read our backgrounder here) and added a legislative review, which was recommended by the House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and sport last year (read more here).

Ms Sharkie also introduced the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Amendment (Worker Screening Database) Bill 2019, which proposes all aged care staff and volunteers undergo screening and are registered onto a national database operated by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

“[It] seeks to minimise the risk of harm to older Australians from those who work closely with them,” Ms Sharkie said.

Access the Staffing Ratio Disclosure Bill here and Worker Screening Database Bill here.

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4 Responses to State govt asks all Qld providers to publish staffing levels

  1. Peter July 24, 2019 at 9:13 am #

    Can someone please tell me what consultation with industry has occurred to bring this proposed solution to the fore. I’m not aware of any.
    You have both Aged care peak bodies ACSA and LASA saying this is poorly thought out policy but it appears this doesn’t matter. Further complicating things is the apparent misunderstanding of the poor funding in this industry.
    The premier is mandating the same level of nursing as the hospitals which is all well and good, except that a hospital bed is approximately $600 per day revenue versus $200 per day in aged care.
    Fix the inadequate funding in the aged care sector and we will then have the ability employ more staff.

  2. Megan Tait July 24, 2019 at 2:30 pm #

    This is the cost for my father in a private Residential care Facility , a RAD of $440,000 for his ” Accommodation” . If he lives past 90 years old he will run out of funds , he is 85 now, so we have paid $2,000 for financial advice of how to manage this with a part RAD and a DAP . He pays 85% of his aged pension for his ” Food , Laundry and linen”. He is a High Care resident ,he has Alzheimer’s Disease and as such his ACFI should bring the facility another $45,000 per year for his ” Care”.
    Dad is unable to have any Dementia specific program because the staff have no training and cannot provide that “sort of care ” , they are all lovely please this is not a criticism of the staff . At the moment Dad can still walk, talk and feed himself , he is assisted with personal care but has I imagine a reasonable standard of living for an older person in care who cannot advocate for himself . What will his life will be when he needs more care is my fear , who will provide the basic needs of life if staff are too busy now ??? I am well aware that Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease , who can guarantee that my Dad will get the care he needs and obviously is paying for out of his life’s savings .This is why we have to mandate ratios its not rocket science.

  3. Tracy Aylen July 24, 2019 at 4:14 pm #

    I agree that funding is the major driver of staffing mix and staff levels, and currently it is inadequate.

    LASA and ACSA usually advocate there no need for staffing ratios, irrespective of what the funding level is, as both they and the Department (per government policy) indicate that the decision rests with the providers.

    However the Commission has indicated that staff levels and staff mix have been raised as a problem at nearly every forum they have held, and there are many existing reports into Aged Care Workforce issues.

    You have to start somewhere to address all the community concerns and if the state government facilities start the ball rolling then surely that is better than the present situation, where consumers feel they have virtually no accessible information on staffing at facilities. I would wait until the details come out before deciding whether this is an inappropriate approach or not. I don’t know of any government initiative where it was perfect in the first instance.

    Aged care facilities provide care for residents with very complex health and social care needs. The residents shouldn’t accept less access to care simply because they are frailer and reside in an Aged Care facility, and not in the community setting.

  4. Robert July 25, 2019 at 12:32 am #

    This announcement made me chuckle, those on the frontline of recruitment in aged care and in management circles know the difficulties in the current balancing act, I am involved in both aged care and hospitals, like the previous comment-the funding is completely different, and it is not too hard recruiting nurses into hospitals-they are lined up, in aged care you cannot afford the same ratios’ and you cannot find enough Australian born nurses due to pay disparity and workloads. I wish the Govt. nursing homes all the best on achieving this. The private operators are not going to be able to do it either, and as usual they will be named and shamed for not being able to do it-leading to possible malicious complaints from families and red flags to the public servants who walk in ticking boxes on their clipboards. Lets cause more havoc in an already struggling sector. Well done Premier, a lovely warm and fuzzy idea, but not a current realistic one. I think we will find that the Royal Commission findings will show the same on ratios’ when they crunch the numbers.

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