Second raft of reforms pass Senate

The Albanese Government’s second piece of aged care reform legislation has passed through both houses of parliament.

The Albanese Government’s second piece of aged care reform legislation has passed through both houses of parliament.

Following a successful passage through the House of Representatives on 1 September, the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill passed the Senate on Thursday.

Among three major proposals, the bill legislates mandatory requirements for facilities to have registered nurses onsite 24/7 by 1 July 2023.

“24/7 registered nurses in residential aged care is a significant change to ensure high quality care for older Australians,” said Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells in a statement. “This will be supported by the initiatives we have in place to grow the workforce and boost the skills of aged care nurses.”

Introduced to the upper chamber on 26 September by Labor Senator Katy Gallagher, the implementing reform bill also includes a mechanism for RN exemptions for facilities unable to recruit a registered nurse after rural and regional providers voiced concerns they’d have difficulties hiring nurses.

The Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care will be the decision-maker in respect to any exemptions, and all exemptions will be subject to a time limit and regular review.

Before granting such an exemption, however, the secretary must be satisfied that the provider has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the clinical care needs of residents will be met during the exemption period.

An amendment to the bill was successfully tabled by the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, South Australian Senator Anne Ruston, calling for “the support of clinical care by enrolled nurses and through telehealth consultations with registered nurses.”

Greater transparency

The care reform bill also legislates for increased financial transparency from providers including how much is spent on care, nursing, food, maintenance, cleaning, administration, and profits.

“This legislation demonstrates our commitment to making public what aged care providers are spending their money on, ensuring a fair and transparent system for our older Australians, their families and carers,” said Ms Wells.

She added: “Transparency is paramount to care recipients’ informed choice and control, and we want to see taxpayer funds being spent on what they are meant for, which is improving the care of older Australians.”

As well, the bill targets the Home Care Packages Program, banning exit fees and enabling the capping of administration and management costs.

Jason Kara

While welcoming the passage of the bill, Catholic provider peak body Catholic Health Australia’s aged care director Jason Kara told Australian Ageing Agenda it’s now time to move to the more difficult stage – implementation.

“CHA will work collaboratively with the government to secure the workforce required to deliver 24/7 registered nurse commitment while continuing to advocate for the sensible inclusion of enrolled nurses into the new model of care,” said Mr Kara.

And while CHA “strongly supports” the transparency provisions contained in the bill, Mr Kara told AAA, moving forward, the peak body would like to see this balanced by transparency in government decision-making on funding and policy matters.

“The creation of the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority will hopefully deliver much needed independence and expertise in funding decisions that deliver real outcomes for residents in aged and community care.”

“Health-related incidents don’t only occur in the day.”

Craig Gear

Also responding to the passing of the second raft of reforms, Older Persons Advocacy Network CEO Craig Gear said in a statement: “Speeding up the aged care royal commission’s timeline for round-the-clock registered nurses will ensure older people get the right level of care.”

He added: “Older people’s increasing health complexities require staff with the corresponding level of health and medical skill. And we know health-related incidents don’t only occur in the day.”

As for the ban on exit fees and a curb on administration charges, Mr Gear said a mechanism now needs to be developed to ensure aged care service providers do not try to recoup the costs in other ways.

“Older people must also be provided with more detailed information about what these fees actually cover – in some instances additional administration costs are incurred after a finite number of phone calls or case management hours.”

Brokerage fees also need to be addressed said Mr Gear. “We have had a report of an older person who was charged $800 to process an invoice for an $8,000 chair – this is simply unacceptable.”

Addressing transparency, Mr Gear said it’s what older people have long been calling for: “To know that the taxpayer funds invested by the government are going to direct care.”

The care reform bill’s passing comes a day after the federal government made a $3.9-billion budget commitment to the aged care sector.

Main image: Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells celebrates the bill’s passing on Twitter

Comment on the story below. Follow Australian Ageing Agenda on LinkedInX (Twitter) and Facebook, sign up to our twice-weekly newsletter and subscribe to our premium content or AAA magazine for the complete aged care picture.  

Tags: Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill, anika wells, craig gear, featured, opan,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *