Personal care workers are likely doing the work of enrolled nurses in Australia’s residential aged care homes, according to new research from Curtin University.

The report from Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and released today examines the health and aged care sectors in Western Australia including the demand for services and the workforce delivering these services in WA and nationally.

It found the number of WA aged care residents assessed as having high care needs in areas of complex health care increased from 12.7 per cent to 51.8 per cent between 2008 and 2017.

At the same time, the report found that in 2016 there were fewer aged care nurses but more personal care workers than estimated requirements, according to calculations based on ABS Census and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data.

The actual full-time equivalent workforce for registered nurses was 85 per cent and 95 per cent of the estimated workforce required in Australia and WA respectively, according to the report.

Showing a greater disparity, the actual full-time equivalent workforce for enrolled nurses was 31 per cent and 45 per cent of the estimated required workforce in Australia and WA respectively.

However, the actual full-time equivalent workforce for personal care workers was 131 per cent and 173 per cent of the estimated required workforce in Australia and in WA respectively, the report found.

The research indicates the number of qualified aged care staff has failed to keep pace with the increasing number of WA aged care residents with high care needs, said Professor Alan Duncan, director of the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre director and lead author of the report.

“Across the state, less than a half (45 per cent) of the number of full-time enrolled nurses that should be employed in aged care are actually working in the sector, yet personal care workers are outnumbering their place in the estimated required workforce by as much as 173 per cent,” Professor Duncan said in a statement.

“A similar trend was reported nationally, suggesting a substitution effect of low-skilled workers for higher-skilled tasks is occurring in the Australian aged care sector, which represents a risk to both those undertaking the care work and those being cared for,” he said.

Other findings WA aged care findings in the report include:

  • WA residential aged care facilities had a non-occupancy rate of 6.2 per cent in 2017, the second lowest in the country
  • in very remote WA, the non-occupancy rate increased from 10.2 per cent in 2008 to 25.9 per cent in 2017
  • between 2013-14 and 2016-17, the median elapsed days to be assigned a residential place in WA more than doubled from 65 days to 151 days
  • as of 30 June 2018, 11,592 Western Australians were in the queue for a home care package.

Access the report To Health and Happiness: WA’s Healthcare Industry Future here.

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  1. Hallelujah……………..Someone pass me the nuts

    Use whatever acronym you want …..these are NURSING HOMES that have people in them that require NURSING CARE

    the sooner we all understand this the sooner we improve the holistic services we should be offering our elderly.


  2. I am a competent experience & passionate caregiver as an employed or self-employed home care/aged care/disability support worker in the client’s home, not Cert 3 qualified but wants certification or quals in nursing but can not take the time off unpaid to do it. Would like to work in Nursing homes to get more exposure to diversity and I also have compassion for dementia and mental or trauma health care & well-being client’s but I think they also should be RTO ‘s and allow work with training and certification just like a trade or traineeship does even offer one day a week paid external provider training with employment .
    The fact is some people can not spend 3 to 6 years doing a Degree in Nursing at a college or university as life takes over, and the cost of fees and living does not allow especially in Sydney.

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