The aged care peaks have welcomed a joint call from Australia’s doctors and nurses for aged care funding and reforms now, but not pleas for staff ratios.
In Canberra on Monday morning, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) together called on the Federal Government to act to guarantee quality and safety in aged care now, not after the royal commission concludes.
The AMA and ANMF, the peak bodies representing doctors and nurses respectively, said the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety had already identified serious and dangerous shortcomings in the system and would likely discover more before it makes final recommendations in November 2020.
However, they said aged care recipients “cannot wait another year for Government action to fix aged care” and called for immediate and effective improvements now by providing:
- increased aged care funding and transparency in the use of funding to address qualified staff shortages
- mandatory minimum staff-to-resident ratios, including ensuring sufficient skilled nurses in residential aged care facilities
- increased GP aged care Medicare rebates to facilitate enhanced medical practitioner care of aged care residents
- expanded home care investment to allow more older people stay and receive care at home and relieve pressure on residential services.
AMA president, Dr Tony Bartone said standards of care for the elderly should not be compromised through restriction of resources or the budget bottom line.
“Ignoring the health and care needs of older Australians will lead to an increase in avoidable hospitalisations and excessive costs to the health system.
“The aged care system urgently needs a safe and quality skills mix of medical, nursing, and care staff. The increased presence of doctors as part of the care team is vital. The Government must act now,” Dr Bartone said
ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said older Australians deserved affordable, high-quality care services including more nurses and doctors in aged care.
“Legislated minimum staff ratios in nursing homes are needed urgently. Registered nurses must be available 24 hours a day, and there must be enough well-trained care workers to support the delivery of quality care.
“General practitioners must be supported to attend nursing homes to ensure quality medical care for elderly Australians,” Ms Butler said.
The government also needs to guarantee that taxpayer-funded subsidies go directly to the provision of care, she said.
“The Government can start on this immediately by requiring aged care providers to publish the staffing ratios in their facilities and to transparently report on their use of publicly-funded subsidies. The Government can then determine where additional funding is needed and ensure that it is provided,” Ms Butler said.
Aged care peaks welcome support for immediate action
Aged and Community Services Australia has welcomed the AMA and ANMF adding their support for action before the aged care royal commission reports, more home care packages and more staff.
ACSA has been saying for some time there are things that can be done ahead of a final report from the commission including increasing the number of packages, said ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow.
“It is important that there is also a call for more staff. We need more staff and that requires increased funding,” ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Ms Sparrow said the sector needed more nursing, personal care, hospitality and recreational staff, however, ratios were not necessarily the best way of meeting workforce demands.
“But we are in furious agreement that we need more staff in aged care to make sure that we can deliver the care that the community expects and that we want to deliver,” she said.
Ms Sparrow said they wanted to work in partnership with health professionals to deliver better care including meeting with the AMA and ANMF about how priorities align and the workforce.
Leading Age Services Australia also welcomes the calls for more adequately skilled staff in aged care but agrees with ACSA that mandated staff ratios will not necessarily offer the best way to achieve this.
LASA CEO Sean Rooney said he was also pleased the AMA and ANMF supported the aged care sector’s calls for urgent action including on the home care waitlist and aged care funding.
“We cannot delay action on making the aged care system better right now. There are many things that can be done to address the key issues of access to services, funding of services, quality of services and supporting the workforce that delivers these services,” he said.
“Many organisations are likely to reduce services, reduce staffing and/or reduce investment without funding relief.”
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