Make aged care ratios law now!

For-profit aged care providers receive $2.17 billion in government subsidies annually yet the sector has been shedding significant numbers of full-time registered nursing staff for many years.

Australia’s aged care sector has a profound staffing crisis.

Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is poured into the sector each year yet there was a 13 per cent reduction in registered nursing staff working full-time in aged care facilities between 2002 and 2016. Last year, owners of aged care facilities made over $1 billion in profits.

The consequences have been catastrophic for residents and staff. Over the last 13 years there has been a 400 per cent increase in preventable deaths of elderly Australians with hundreds dying from falls, choking
and suicide.

It is unconscionable that these tragedies happen to our parents and grandparents who looked after us and loved us, who have paid their dues to society but who are now seemingly expendable in the drive for profit.

Nurses and care staff are doing the best they can – often in impossible circumstances. But they are run off their feet and can’t provide the level of care they want to. There simply isn’t enough staff.

This situation cannot be allowed to continue. It is our professional responsibility to ensure it doesn’t continue.

We have just had the official launch of our campaign for ratios in aged care (see pp 8-11). This campaign is a statement by the NSWNMA and all the other branches of the ANMF that we are going to fight hard on behalf of the elderly Australians who are entrusted to our care.

Aged care providers need to be made accountable

There is a wealth of compelling evidence that shows the need for mandated ratios in aged care.

We know residents are currently receiving around two hours and 50 minutes of care every day from nurses and carers, which is nowhere near enough time to shower, toilet, medicate, dress, feed, roll over, move, let alone talk to an aged care resident.

We have strong independent evidence that residents need, at least, four hours and 18 minutes of proper care from trained nurses and carers.

An important part of our campaign is to ensure that aged care providers are made accountable for the funding they receive out of the public purse. We are adamant that government funding should be prioritised towards improving the quality of care.

To this end we believe aged care ratios need to be enshrined in law to guarantee adequate staffing levels and skills mix for residential aged care across the country.

Without mandatory minimum staffing levels in aged care employers can simply choose not to employ enough staff or cut nursing and care hours.

Strong support for our advocacy on ratios

Ratios are important to nurses and midwives no matter what sector they work in.

We have just conducted a comprehensive survey of members’ attitudes that found that 89 per cent of public health system members believe improved ratios would benefit patient care and patient safety. 69 per cent thought advocating for improvements to ratios was more important than a pay rise.

This is strong support among the membership for our advocacy on ratios.

Politicians – federal and state, government and opposition – need to acknowledge the severe staffing problems in aged care and in our public health system.

As always, we will act strongly to bring about change. As The Lamp goes to print we have commenced TV advertising to educate the public about the importance of ratios (see pp18-19).

Our slogan says it all:  Ratios. It’s a matter of life or death.