The Minister for Ageing has responded to the Australian Nursing Federation’s campaign for higher aged care wages by calling on providers to remunerate nurses “appropriately”.

Justine Elliot said in a statement that the Rudd Government was providing the aged and community industry with annual subsidies of over $41 billion over the next four years.

She noted that on average this equates to $43,000 per aged care resident per year.

“We acknowledge that aged care operators are operating businesses and have to see a reasonable return on their investments, but this should not be at the expense of care or their workers,” Mrs Elliot said.

The CEO of Aged Care Association SA Paul Carberry acknowledged that government subsidies were at ‘record’ levels but he said they were still insufficient.

“We certainly do want to pay nurses higher wages but the advice from the minister displays a lack of knowledge about the state of the aged care industry,” he said.

“The industry is in decline and a substantial number of providers are incurring losses.”

Mrs Elliot chose instead to focus on providers who have been addressing the disparity between aged care and hospital nurses.

In her statement she made reference to Queensland provider Blue Care which negotiated an 18 per cent wage increase for its staff with the Queensland Nurses Union.

However Blue Care’s Executive Director Stephen Muggleton said the decision to lift nurse’s pay was at the expense of other outcomes.

“We did push through significant wage increases but we couldn’t afford not to,” Mr Muggleton said.

“With a nationwide shortage of skilled nurses as well as some significant pay increases for nurses in the public system, we did everything we could to retain key staff.”

“Those increases were not funded. The cost has come straight off our bottom line, constraining our ability to grow to meet the burgeoning demand for aged care in Queensland,” Mr Muggleton said.

Australian Ageing Agenda reported last November that Blue Care handed back 210 provisional bed licences, saying the construction of conventional nursing homes was no longer viable.

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