RNs needed for safe effective aged care

As moves are afoot to remove the legal requirement to employ RNs in aged care, a survey conducted by the NSWNMA of more than 800 aged care nurses has revealed their serious concerns about the consequences of such an action.

Almost all (98 per cent) survey respondents said it was important to protect the legal requirement for an RN in aged care. Most were aware of the legal requirement but only 61 per cent were aware that it was under threat.

Most (92 per cent) said that removing the legal requirement would have a negative impact on their workplace.

When asked about the importance of having an RN for palliative care and end of life care, pain management, oversight of the nursing team, assessing and managing deterioration and changes in condition, management of medications and deciding when to seek medical advice or transfer to hospitals, in each category more than 90 per cent found it “extremely important” to have an RN.

There was widespread concern about the consequences if the mandatory requirement for an RN was removed:

  • 95% said there would be more hospital admissions
  • 80% said GPs would be reticent to visit aged care homes
  • 86% said families would consider moving elsewhere
  • 98% said there would be a delay in identification and treatment of illness and complications
  • 96% said there would be lower quality of care

Profits ahead of patient care

Gerard Ryan, an RN in aged care based in Tamworth said “the very thought of eliminating RNs from aged care is ridiculous and outrageous.

“It is the worst thing in the world that they could do. In New South Wales the Poisons Act requires an RN to handle narcotics. If the state government changes that it will be a horrible mistake,” he said.

“Most facilities would take the cheapest option of [employing] AiNs over RNs. It would be a short-term gain at the expense of resident care.

“It’s dangerous to put profits ahead of resident care.”

What Aged care workers say in our survey

“The federal government has rolled out tools for the best practice for palliative care in aged care facilities and this would be impossible to act on effectively if there were not RNs on duty.”

“I am already the only RN in charge of 70 plus residents and my facility has a dedicated 20 bed dementia unit included in these numbers. There is only one RN on all three shifts. At weekends and public holidays there is no management present in the facility.”

“The elderly do not go to aged care to die, but to improve their quality of life and have care whenever they need it. This move by the government is, as usual, a monetary decision that has no basis in any understanding of the real world. A cheap decision and a negligent decision that will result in deaths.”

“If an RN is not on the premises 24/7 the amount of unnecessary hospitalisations will dramatically increase putting further strain on the health system.”