Aged care providers should focus on developing its existing workforce including creating more full-time roles rather than constantly recruiting part-time staff, an aged care workforce expert has told an online forum.
Macquarie University in partnership with the University of New South Wales’ Social Policy Research Centre hosted a forum on Tuesday on the aged care workforce.
Macquarie University’s Ageing and Aged Care Researchers Network chair Professor Denise Jepsen said many providers needed to offer existing staff more development and full-time opportunities.
“We really need to put some pressure on the providers for them to understand that they’re actually spending more money than they need to be by this constant onboarding of new part-time employees because it hasn’t worked out,” Professor Jepsen told the forum on Tuesday.
“I’m speaking about those who are investing more in recruitment than they are in developing, embracing and retaining their workforce and giving them the career paths, opportunities and what any decent work would look like.”
The has been a recent shift from casual to part-time roles in aged care, which needs to be addressed, she said.
“Now the part-time needs to be converted to full-time,” Professor Jepsen said.
“Being able to have the one full-time job that will give them a living wage” so “they can afford to put food on the table and do those other things that that we all wish for” will “help make it a more attractive opportunity to go into aged care,” she said.
Staffing ratios should be implemented
Also at the forum, Annie Butler, federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, raised concerns about the incoming minimum care minute requirements.
The Federal Government has committed to mandating an average of 200 care minutes for residents each day including 40 minutes with a registered nurse from October 2023, which is more than a year later than recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
The commissioners also recommended this increase to 215 care minutes with at least 44 minutes provided by a RN from July 2024, but the government has not committed to this.
The ANMF would prefer staff-to-residents ratios over minimum care minutes, Ms Butler said.
“People are getting very tangled up in the concept of this 200 care minutes,” Ms Butler told the forum.
“It’s just easier for everybody to understand that for a certain number… of residents needing care, you need X number of people,” she said. “In the ANMF’s view, the 200 care minutes and then the uplift recommended by the royal commission to 215 minutes is insufficient.”
Ms Butler said ANMF research identified that the average resident needed 258 to 270 minutes of care each day.
“The current average is about 180 minutes. So the royal commission recommendation would lift it up, but just not far enough,” she said.
The ANMF believes the direct care workforce should be made up of 30 per cent registered nurses, 20 per cent enrolled nurses and 50 per cent personal care workers.
Call for better workforce data
Elsewhere Macquarie University social science professor Gabrielle Meagher said she was concerned about the validity of the sector’s main source of workforce data, the Aged Care Workforce Census.
The first census in 2003 received responses from 63 per cent of aged care facilities while almost all facilities responded in 2007 (93 per cent) and 2012 (96 per cent).
However, around three-quarters of facilities responded in 2016 (76 per cent).
“What happened in 2016 that a quarter of residential care facilities didn’t respond?” Professor Meagher said.
She said it was not surprising that only half of facilities responded in 2020 (49 per cent) as that is likely due to the pandemic.
Professor Meagher said the census appeared to rely on whether facilities were big or small, rural, regional or urban and so on, but not much else.
“We don’t really know… why providers aren’t responding or what if anything is done to follow up those that don’t respond,” she said. “I think that some good workforce data gathering needs to be re-established or established.”
The Macquarie Aged Care Policy Forum took place on 26 October.