United approach to fix aged care needed

Aged care providers are calling for greater collaboration between states and the Commonwealth in addressing workforce shortage.

Responding to the Victorian Government’s plan to offer free training for thousands of nurses, aged care providers are calling for greater collaboration between states and the Commonwealth in addressing the workforce shortage.

Under the $270-million scheme, more than 17,000 nurses and midwives will be recruited, trained and upskilled to work across the state’s public sector health system.

All domestic students enrolling in a professional-entry nursing or midwifery course in 2023 and 2024 will receive a scholarship of up to $16,500 – $9,000 while they’re studying and a further $7,500 if they work in a Victorian public health service for two years. This includes the 180 state-run residential aged care services, meaning the impact on the sector will be slight.

Speaking to Australian Ageing Agenda, Whiddon CEO Chris Mamarelis said: “If we are serious about addressing aged care reforms and serving our communities, federal and state governments need to overcome the barriers imposed by their jurisdictions to fight for a common goal.”

Chris Mamarelis

Mr Mamarelis said at the moment the states and the Commonwealth appear to be working against one another.

“On one hand, with the federal government, we are working towards mandated care minutes and 24/7 nursing, while on the other, state governments are incentivising nurses away from aged care with financial incentives and, more recently, subsidised university fees. Where is the logic?”  

Mr Mamarelis is calling for the states and the Commonwealth to collaborate and introduce a resource sharing framework “whereby health providers operating within the same community can support each other; an approach which ultimately offers a mutually beneficial solution for everyone involved.”

Reacting to the Victorian incentive scheme, interim CEO of the Aged & Community Care Provider’s Association Paul Sadler said it did nothing to allievate the aged care sector’s current workforce pressures.

Paul Sadler

“Aged care providers in residential and home and community care are struggling now to provide services and in many cases are either being forced to leave beds empty or turn new clients away because they cannot fill staff vacancies,” said Mr Sadler. “We need to recruit more staff as quickly as possible.”

Highlighting the acute shortage of registered nurses in aged care, Mr Sadler said: “Providers are facing enormous challenges as they prepare to try to meet requirements to provide additional minutes of care per resident per day and to ensure every aged care home has a RN on duty 24/7.” An obligation especially difficult to achieve for regional and rural providers, added Mr Sadler.

NSW woos nurses to regional hospitals

Victoria’s announcement follows the recently announced incentive scheme by the NSW Government to encourage nurses to work in regional hospitals by offering them cash bonuses.

Mr Mamarelis told AAA, while well-intentioned, the scheme will draw staff away from the aged care sector. “The aged care industry is already facing well-documented workforce shortages, which have placed an immense level of pressure on our operations and our workforce alike,” he said.

“The NSW Government announcement to retain and attract regional nurses to regional hospitals, through the payment of financial incentives, has the potential to further erode the clinical skill shortages we are already experiencing and ironically further impact the delivery of care within these important regional communities.”

While noting that any investment directed towards the nursing profession is welcome, Mr Mamarelis told AAA: “Surely it makes sense to tackle the issues strategically, with the broader community in mind, rather than in silos.”

The New South Wales and Queensland provider is taking up to three months to fill vacant roles across its regional sites and the situation is only likely to get worse, said Mr Mamarelis. “We have an ageing population and the demand for care is only going to increase. As it stands, we will not be able to meet mandatory staffing requirements by 2023.”

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Tags: accapa, chris mamarelies, featured, paul sadler, shortages, whiddon, workforce,

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