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Aged care ratios: the right call?

After months of lobbying and advocating, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is stepping up its efforts to encourage the introduction of staffing ratio laws for aged care by announcing plans to launch a national public awareness campaign.

The ANMF is calling for nursing and carer ratios in aged care (Source: Shutterstock)
The ANMF is calling for nursing and carer ratios in aged care (Source: Shutterstock)

The decision to launch the campaign, which will call for ratios to be made law “now”, was unanimously passed at a meeting in Brisbane this week, with the union stating there will be six voices of the campaign including a registered nurse, assistant in nursing, aged care resident, family member, doctor and community supporter.

Assistant Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, says the public campaign will be about the experiences of real people in the aged care system, and why they say staffing is inadequate and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Ms Butler adds that the ANMF’s unanimous support for a new national campaign sends a strong message to the country’s politicians, that it’s time to fix aged care for the sake of the elderly nursing home residents and their families.

“Enough is enough,” Ms Butler says.

“The severe understaffing and under regulation of aged care facilities means elderly Australians in almost every community are not receiving the treatment they need.

“Nurses and care staff are struggling because there is simply not enough of them, and yet last year, owners of aged care facilities pocketed over $1 billion in profits while cutting staff and nursing hours for residents.”

Staffing ratios in the aged care industry have also been highlighted this week in a joint statement released by industry peak bodies, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA).

Chief Executive Officers from both peak bodies, Sean Rooney (LASA) and Pat Sparrow (ACSA), took focus on quality standards in the sector, noting that those standards are “intrinsically linked” to the industry’s workforce.

“We believe the ongoing debate around staffing in aged care facilities would be better served by focusing on the quality of outcomes via optimising models of care for older Australians, rather than mandating staffing ratios,” they say.

“The basis for deciding on staffing levels and their skill mix needs to be driven by the actual needs of individual residents.”

The ANMF’s Ms Butler further highlights that Australia mandates ratios in childcare, which she says is “only fair and reasonable”, but notes the lack of one in the aged care industry.

“In aged care, it's a very different story, where just one registered nurse may be responsible for managing the care of more than 100 residents,” she explains.

“There are no mandated ratios for aged care and no laws to ensure our elderly get the care they need.

“Our aged care system has been ignored by governments for far too long and today the ANMF calls on federal politicians to stand up for older Australians and support making ratios law in aged care.”

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