ANMF clarifies misinformation about aged care staff ratios

ANMF Media Release 4 June 2019

Aged care is chronically understaffed. Currently there are no laws which provide for safe minimum levels of care for older Australians. The current system of allowing providers to determine adequate care and staffing has simply failed. That is why we have a Royal Commission into Aged Care. 

Occasionally some providers and consultants, accountants and lobbyists will try to discredit arguments, evidence and research which show why minimum standards of care in the form of staffing ratios should be implemented, despite the pleas from residents and families about the shocking levels of care being delivered in many aged care facilities around Australia. 

The ANMF suggests that those making the claims about ratios and minimum staffing levels have not read or understood the ANMF’s research and reports, that they have also not read or understood the evidence provided by the ANMF to the Royal Commission and they have not listened to the heartbreaking stories of unnecessary pain and suffering being experienced by some residents in aged care.

It’s time for each and every provider, accountant, consultant and aged care lobbyist to start listening to the stories of those who live in aged care and the families, who have experienced the system directly, as well as the staff who work with the residents and families directly.   

CLAIM: There is no link between mandated staffing ratios and improved patient outcomes.

FACT: The number of patients/residents assigned to a nurse has a direct impact on their ability to provide best practice care. For every patient added to a nurse’s workload, the likelihood of dying increases by 7%.

CLAIM: Mandated staffing ratios won’t meet the needs of patients/residents because they aren’t flexible.

FACT:  Ratios set a safe minimum level of staffing, they set a ‘floor’, not a ‘ceiling’. Ratios can be flexible and vary according to the complexity of care needs of resident or patient acuity (this is precisely how the ANMF’s staffing model works, using variable not fixed ratios). Ratios also provide employers with the flexibility to increase staffing as required, but not to decrease staffing below the mandated minimum safe staffing level.

CLAIM: Implementation of mandated staffing is unachievable due to a lack of workforce supply.

FACT: The ANMF proposed a six-year implementation plan in recognition of the need for time to develop both the numbers and skills of the staff required. The ANMF further proposed that skills development would need to occur in collaboration with the Aged Services IRC. Many newly graduated nurses do not secure meaningful employment on completion of their courses, but the poor conditions and impossible workloads in the aged care sector are failing to attract them to positions. 

CLAIM: Regional employers cannot attract nursing staff.                     

FACT: 2017 Nurse Victorian Labour force data indicated that regional employers filled 80% of registered nurse vacancies, from fewer applicants, compared to 71% of vacancies filled in metropolitan areas in the same period.  

CLAIM: Non-nurse care workers will lose jobs because staffing ratios are only about increasing nursing positions.

FACT: In jurisdictions where safe nurse staffing ratios have been introduced, i.e. California (USA) and Victoria and Queensland (Australia), non-nurse workers have not lost their jobs. The ANMF’s staffing model proposes an increase in all direct care workers in residential aged care, both nurses and care staff, over 6 years.

CLAIM: Residential aged care is a home, not a hospital.

“So people come in [to residential aged care] and they’re told this is your home now. Well, it’s not. It’s an institution, and it’s where you live. But it’s not a home, and no matter how many times they tell you, it’s still not your home. So my answer always to anyone who tells me that is, this is where I live but it’s not a home.”
– Evidence of Ms Merle Mitchell, Aged Care Resident
  Sydney Hearing, Aged Care Royal Commission, 6 May 2019

The ANMF’s national campaign for the implementation of mandated staffing ratios is based on solid, evidence-based methodology and research. Our work focuses on facts, not fear with the overall aim of addressing chronic understaffing and improving care outcomes for elderly Australians in the under-resourced aged care sector.

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