Changes to care minutes target

ENs will be able to meet a proportion of the RN target from October.

Adjustments have been made to the care minutes target, the government announced on Tuesday.

From 1 October, care minutes will increase from a sector average of 200 minutes of direct care per resident per day – including 40 minutes from a registered nurse – to 215 minutes, including 44 minutes of RN time.

However, the Department of Health and Aged Care has tweaked that directive saying providers can also meet 10 per cent of the RN target – 4.4 minutes (4 minutes and 24 seconds) – with care time delivered by an enrolled nurse.

“This small adjustment recognises the important role of ENs in aged care and will improve recruitment and retention of these skilled workers,” said a department update.

The adjustment has been made following feedback from providers, peaks, workers, unions and other stakeholders concerned the new target would be difficult to reach due to a shortage of RNs – particularly in regional and rural areas of the country.

Providers have been assured that they will still be funded to meet the new care minutes target  “as though the full 44 minute target is met by RNs.”

The announcement comes as industry analysis shows providers struggling to meet the 40 minute RN requirement.

Source: Mirus Australia
Rob Covino

Conducted by aged care consultancy Mirus Australia, the analysis shows that, in April, aged care homes provided an average of 39.77 minutes of RN time. “RN performance has been difficult for providers to achieve under the current national average of 40 minutes,” Mirus Australia founder Rob Covino told Australian Ageing Agenda.

As well as the new EN proviso, Mr Covino said the government may be prepared to allow the sector further slack. “It appears the department has been listening to the sector’s frustrations and is softening its stance on some initial policy implementations.”

Indeed, in a webinar late last year, the department indicated that the initial star ratings table would be adjusted in April/May 2024. “May is almost over, and you can still achieve a three-star outcome on staffing with zero RN care time if you exceed 115 per cent of your total direct care target,” said Mr Covino.

Peter Hoppo

In response to the care minutes adjustment, the Aged Care Industry Association welcomed the changes. “This adjustment acknowledges the essential role that ENs play in the aged care sector,” said ACIA chief executive officer Peter Hoppo. “It not only enhances our ability to recruit and retain these crucial workers but also provides critical support in delivering care requirements amidst workforce shortages.”

ACIA notes that the change does not alter the responsibilities of nurses within aged care services. “The care outcomes achieved by ENs will continue under the delegation and supervision of RNs, supported by the ongoing requirement for 24/7 RN responsibility,” reads a statement.

Mr Hoppo said ACIA has advocated strongly about the need to recognise the role of ENs in aged care. “Not recognising the time enrolled nurses spend caring for residents as part of nursing care minutes has always been a disappointing flaw in the targets. This change is a significant first step in rectifying it.”

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Tags: aged care industry association, care minute targets, care minutes, mirus australia, peter hoppo, rob covino,

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