The NSW ALP has announced that if elected they would legislate to extend the legal requirement that NSW aged care facilities have a registered nurse on duty at all times.
Currently, the requirement is only in place in NSW until December 2015. The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has been campaigning for the retention of the requirement to have an RN on duty 24/7.
The NSW Public Health Act 2010 requires all ‘nursing homes’ in NSW to have a registered nurse on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week, but 2014 changes to the Commonwealth Aged Care Act 1997 impacted on the NSW Public Health Act. This removed the requirement for a registered nurse around the clock.
However, in June 2014, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner wrote to the NSW aged care sector putting forward an interim measure until December 2015 while a consultation process was underway.
NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said State Labor wanted to provide certainty to aged care residents and their families and make the registered nurse in aged care a legal requirement.
“Having a registered nurse on duty also gives other nurses extra support, back-up and experience when it comes to making decisions involving the welfare of aged care residents,” Mr Secord said.
The registered nurse requirement would also reduce the number of transfers by aged care facilities of residents to the State’s emergency departments – which are experiencing an increase in the number of older people presenting to hospital.
Furthermore, the registered nurse requirement comes at a time when the Abbott Government has slashed funding to aged care at the national level and reduced oversight by diminishing the role of the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency.
Under the NSW Public Health Act 2010, failure to comply with the registered nurse requirement carries a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units or a $11,000 fine.
There are about 880 Commonwealth-accredited aged care facilities in NSW run by some 300 aged care providers.