Independent senator Rex Patrick has introduced a bill into Federal Parliament calling for residential aged care facilities to have a registered nurse on site at all times to improve care provision.
Mr Patrick, who is a senator for South Australia, introduced the Private Member’s Bill last Wednesday.
Under the Aged Care Amendment (Registered Nurses Ensuring Quality Care) Bill 2021, residential aged care facilities would be required to have at least one registered nurse present at all times to provide care and supervision of care.
The bill aligns with recommendation 86 from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report to have an RN onsite by July 2024 but aims to bring the start date forward.
Mr Patrick said he was concerned that resident care varied depending on where they lived in Australia.
“The inconsistent approach leads to variations in the level of care and quality provided to residents. Proper care for our elderly is critical and it requires aged care homes to have registered nurses on site at all times,” Mr Patrick said.
“My Bill, requiring aged care facilities to have a registered nurse present at all times, will raise the level of care to residents, will attract and retain new graduate nurses and increase the skilled workforce to provide the required levels of supervision and support.”
He said aged care residents, families and aged care workers should not have to wait any longer for this recommendation to be implemented.
“Unfortunately, due to chronic understaffing and skills shortages some residents just aren’t receiving the care they deserve, and July 2024 is just too far away,” Mr Patrick said.
Then Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert read the Bill a second time and commended it to the Senate.
Ms Siewert said aged care residents deserve more than to be forgotten as they approach their later years.
“They deserve more than to be treated as a commodity for profit. They deserve to be cared for by registered nurses who will care and support them, keep them comfortable and let them enjoy the rest of their life comforted in knowing they have access to appropriate medically trained staff as and when they need,” Ms Siewert said.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has thrown its support behind the bill.
ANMF federal assistant secretary Lori-Anne Sharp said implementing the nurse staffing levels and minimum staff time recommended by the royal commission would address current understaffing.
“A national law requiring a registered nurse to be on shift 24 hours per day in nursing homes is not too much to ask. We ask all Federal senators to support this new Bill and the ANMF’s ongoing fight to address the failures in the aged care system,” she said.
Second stage of aged care reform introduced
Also in Canberra last week, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt introduced legislation for a second round of reforms as part of the Federal Government’s response to the royal commission.
It comes just over three months after he introduced legislation to implement the first set of reforms that strengthened requirements for the use of restrictive practices in aged care homes and replace the Aged Care Financing Authority with a new advisory group.
The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 2) Bill of 2021, which Mr Hunt introduced on 1 September, includes implementing the Australian National Aged Care Classification by October 2022 and establishing an authority for aged care worker pre-employment screening.
The Bill also aims to strengthen provider governance from 1 March 2022. It requires aged care providers to notify changes to key personnel to improve transparency and their accountability and replaces disqualified individual arrangements with a suitability test.
It also extends the Serious Incident Response Scheme to home care and flexible care from 1 July 2022 requiring these providers to identify, record, manage and resolve all incidents the same as residential aged care providers currently do.
Mr Hunt called the measures “landmark reform” that will save, protect and improve lives.
“Ultimately, the health, safety and wellbeing of senior Australians is of the utmost importance to the government, and is driving our plan for generational change of the aged care system,” Mr Hunt said in parliament.