Govt determined to hit RN deadline, says Minister

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells tells the International Dementia Conference she will not give up on July 2023 deadline for around-the-clock registered nurses.

Acknowledging concerns the sector will be unable to recruit enough registered nurses to meet the requirement of having them on-site in aged care homes 24/7 from 1 July 2023, Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells has said the government will not give up on that deadline.

Speaking to delegates on day two of the International Dementia Conference in Sydney, and answering a question from the audience, Ms Wells said: “People say to me everyday that it is unrealistic, but that is what the royal commission has asked us to do, so I will not be giving up on that deadline until 11.59pm 30th of June next year to try and make it happen.”

It is important the government signposts to the sector the direction it is taking to fix aged care, she said. “Because the royal commission asked us to provide a better standard of care. So there is absolutely no point in running away from the problem – I’d argue that governments have done that for too long.”

Workforce is the number one issue in aged care, Ms Wells told delegates. “It is a complex problem, it needs a considered solution.” However, she added “there isn’t a silver bullet.”

The Albanese Government will take a number of approaches to boost the workforce, she said. “We are going to have to address migration … we are going to have to make the sector more attractive.”

There also has to be improved pathways into the sector, said Ms Wells. “We can’t just train people up, we can’t just have additional university places or HECs scholarships by way of policy initiatives and throw people out there and not give them the support that they need to stay. We are looking at absolutely more than that, I promise you.” she said – a remark that drew applause.

“We really mean business.”

She told delegates – a mix of aged care executives, frontline staff, peak body representatives, researchers and advocates – the Labor Government was serious about delivering reform.

“When we introduced the aged care reform bill to the house on the very first morning of the 47th Parliament … I feel that was the clearest signal that I could give Australia and people like yourselves that we really mean business.”

Addressing yesterday’s passing through the lower house of more legislation to amend the Aged Care Act, Ms Wells said: “That’s the second aged care reform bill that we’ve done in nine sitting days [of parliament].”

As for the work value case currently before the Fair Work Commission, Ms Wells assured delegates the wage increase was coming. “Both fairness and market reality dictates that pay will need to rise. And it will rise.”

Ms Wells said the government wanted the pay increase to be “significant” and “meaningful”, and that she expects a decision from the FWC over summer. “And this government is fully committed to fully fund that pay rise,” she added.

Dementia action plan

Ms Wells said the government would continue to invest in dementia programs in 2022-23 to improve the quality of life of people living with the disease “through diagnosis through to residential aged care.”

The Federal Government is also negotiating a new 10-year dementia action plan with state and territory governments, Ms Wells told delegates. “It will then be developed in consultations with people with lived experience of dementia.”

She said it was anticipated the plan will be open to public consultation later this year. “And I urge conference participants to have your say because we value your expertise, we value your experience and we value your practical know-how.”

Main image: Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells addresses International Dementia Conference delegates

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Tags: 24/7, anika wells, fair work commission, featured, international dementia conference, nurses, reform,

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