The NSW Liberal–National government attempted to turn its back on professional advice and public opinion.
By abandoning the requirement for nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty around the clock, the state government ignored appeals from a wide range of nursing, seniors and health advocacy groups.
It went against the views of 25,000 citizens who signed an NSWNMA petition.
It even went against the unanimous recommendation of a parliamentary inquiry supported by the government’s own MPs.
In 2015, the NSW government proposed that it would withdraw its legislation requiring RNs 24/7 for licensed nursing homes because the federal government holds responsibility for aged care.
Federal regulations do not specify the number and skill mix of staff in aged care facilities and therefore fail to ensure safe staffing levels for frail residents and workers.
As former Greens MP Jan Barham pointed out: “Some of these facilities have over 300 residents. Now there’s no guarantee they’ll have a registered nurse on site during the day, overnight or on weekends.”
“Without 24/7 registered nursing, residents can wait for hours or days for pain relief or to have a catheter changed or have the specialised care that recognises symptoms of an emerging condition.”
In an open letter, 15 organisations called on the state government to keep the requirement for RNs.
They included the Council on the Ageing, Cancer Council NSW, Alzheimer’s Australia, National Seniors, the Australia and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine and the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA).
Dr Lyndal Newton of the Australian & New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine said registered nurses were integral in providing skilled, clinical care to nursing home residents with complex, high level needs.
“The roles of a registered nurse and director of nursing in nursing homes with high care residents are vital to the NSW health system,” Dr Newton said.
“We cannot rely on industry self-regulation for our most vulnerable Australians. Though many service providers will do the right thing, we need to make sure that they all do.”
NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes agreed.
“The removal of the 24/7 registered nurse requirement would only lead to increased profits for nursing homes. But it would come at a high cost to elderly residents and their families,” he said.
“Nursing homes would have no choice but to transfer residents to already overwhelmed hospital emergency departments for basic treatment if there wasn’t a nurse on duty.”
“The legislation continues to exist only as a result of our campaigning but is limited to certain nursing homes not all aged care facilities.”
Where the parties stand on RNs in aged care
The Liberal–National Coalition parties used its numbers in state parliament to defeat a Bill supported by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ party requiring nursing homes
to have registered nurses on duty 24 hours a day.
Voted in favour of requiring aged care facilities to always have a RN on duty.
Labor supported the 2017 proposals of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ party to ensure aged care facilities have an RN on duty at all times.
SHOOTERS, FISHERS & FARMERS
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