Report exposes problems in aged care

A report by Access Economics sets out urgent challenges facing the aged care sector.

Low pay and excessive workloads are driving nurses out of the aged care sector, and if not adequately addressed, the result will be a severe drop in the quality of care for Australia’s ageing population due to extreme shortages of nursing staff.

This is the conclusion of the Nurses in Residential Care report, which reflects the aims of the NSWNA’s Because we care campaign to improve funding, staffing levels and skill mix in aged care.

The report found that nurses working in aged care are paid at least 10% less than their counterparts in the public sector, with the gap worse in some locations. Work intensity for aged care nurses has also increased, it noted – with 6.7 residents per nurse in 2007, up from 5.2 in just four years and projected to double to 12.1 in the next decade based on current trends.

As well as each nurse being expected to supervise more residents and staff, sometimes across multiple locations, the numbers of nurses in the sector will not keep pace with the numbers of residents to 2020, the report found. In addition there will be a growing complexity of care required as the population becomes older with more chronic needs.

Evidence shows that a higher nurse ratio in the staffing mix at aged care facilities offers a much higher level of quality care for residents, but ‘the combination of inequitable remuneration, increasing workloads and the frustration of compromised quality outcomes is driving nurses from the sector,’ the report noted.

ANF Federal Secretary Ged Kearney praised the timely report. ‘This report endorses the way forward for aged care – closing the 10% pay gap for nurses and guaranteeing access to high-quality trained nurses for residents by introducing minimum staffing levels,’ said Ged.