Morrison government fails to support aged care
The Coalition government’s last budget before the federal election was a missed opportunity to move towards safe, quality aged care.
The recent federal Budget did nothing to support the work of nurses and carers in aged care, one of Australia’s fastest-growing industries, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the government failed to use the Budget to promote mandatory minimum staffing levels and hours of care for all residents.
She said it did nothing to fund wage increases for nurses and carers to help build a quality workforce – or make providers spend their generous taxpayer subsidies directly on care for residents.
Annie warned that the aged care workforce is “under enormous pressure, just managing to hold the system together.”
“There is little for nurses, midwives and carers to celebrate in this Budget,” she said.
The Budget’s aged care provisions were a patchwork of measures that failed to address core issues underlying the industry’s “widespread and systemic failures”.
“These failures are now being brought to light through a Royal Commission,” she said.
A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia revealed that over the last 13 years, chronic understaffing has resulted in a 400 per cent increase in preventable deaths of elderly Australians in aged care, due to falls, choking, suicide and other causes.
“Australians are living longer and entering residential aged care facilities with more complex health issues,” Annie said.
“The federal government needs to do more to ensure our grandparents, parents and loved ones receive the care they need and deserve.”
Nurses have the solutions
Australia has strict staffing ratios for child care but none for aged care.
The ANMF and its state branches including the NSWNMA are campaigning to make staffing ratios law. We want the government to:
- Mandate staffing and skill mix levels for all nursing homes across the country
- Make aged care providers accountable and transparent
- Directly tie public funding given to aged care providers to care of residents.
An ANMF national study in 2016 examined the minimum care needed to avoid missed care in nursing homes.
It found that an average of four hours and 18 minutes of care is needed each day, but that residents were only getting two hours and 50 minutes of care.
The research also found the ideal skills mix required would comprise 30 per cent registered nurses, 20 per cent enrolled nurses and 50 per cent care workers.
The ANMF is calling for a phased implementation plan to develop the skills and workforce required to meet these minimum care levels.
Mandatory ratios – benefits outweigh costs
Staffing ratios in aged care would save at least $2.6 billion in productivity and other economic gains, while reducing preventable deaths and improving the quality of life of residents, a Flinders University study found in 2017.
The study found that the benefits of implementing minimum staffing hours outweigh the costs of implementing them.
The report also warned there would be significant costs of not implementing staffing ratios.
In addition, the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce report commissioned by the federal government, also outlined an economic case for staffing and skill mix improvements in nursing homes.