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Health Transparency Bill passes in Queensland

A new standard of transparency for Queensland's private and public health and aged care facilities has been set with the passing of the Health Transparency Bill 2019 in Queensland Government yesterday.

The new law will give Queenslanders looking into aged care homes or hospitals access to more information about the facilities. [Source: Shutterstock]
The new law will give Queenslanders looking into aged care homes or hospitals access to more information about the facilities. [Source: Shutterstock]

All public health and aged care facilities are affected by the new Bill, while private organisations can opt in if they want to, however, it will be publicly disclosed if they decide to not participate with the new Bill.

This Bill was introduced into Queensland Parliament in September following the unexpected shock closure of Earle Haven Retirement Village in July, which left nearly 70 residents abandoned by nursing home staff.

The new law will give Queenslanders looking into aged care homes or hospitals access to more information about these facilities.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Steven Miles, says that people will be able to use an interactive website, similar to TripAdvisor, for healthcare in Queensland.

“This site will enable elderly residents and their families to make informed decisions when choosing an aged care service. They’ll know how many staff and what skills mix they have to take care of their elderly residents,” says Minister Miles.

“We are asking private aged care providers to tell their clients and their families the level of care they can expect. If they refuse that will be disclosed too.

“We hope that greater transparency will help Queenslanders make informed choices when deciding where to live in residential aged care facilities.”

The Bill requires residential aged care facilities to report their average daily resident care hours quarterly.

Private residential aged care facilities do not have to provide this information, but that decision will be highlighted by their name on the new website.

Another key component of the Bill requires Queensland Health’s residential aged care facilities to have a minimum nurse mix of 50 percent, with 30 percent of the total care staff to be Registered Nurses.

All residential aged care facilities under the new Queensland Bill must provide a minimum average of 3.64 hours of nursing and personal care to residents daily.

Minister Miles, who introduced the Bill to Queensland Parliament in September, says the new laws also create a legislative framework to collect and publish information of the State’s public and private hospitals.

“This information will go on a website and will allow Queenslanders to compare public and private hospitals based on patient safety and quality indicator results as well as other considerations like parking and nearby accommodation,’ says Minister Miles.

Queensland Health will work with private healthcare and aged care providers to develop the website over the next year.

Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) welcome the passing of the Bill which they believe will benefit elderly residents in Queensland’s 16 state-run residential aged care facilities with better staffing and increased care hours.

Acting Secretary of QNMU, Sandra Eales, says, “Nurses in state-run nursing homes will have more time to care for their residents.

“This is in contrast to the private sector, which is plagued by chronic understaffing and cuts to nursing hours.”

Ms Eales adds that the legislation increases transparency in the sector across both private and public aged care facilities and organisations.

“Consumers have been crying out for more transparency in the sector,” says Ms Eales.

“People want to know how their money is being spent, and whether it’s actually funding more nursing and better care.

“This legislation is a significant step towards achieving this.”

QNMU estimates there are around 400 privately run aged care facilities in the State and if they don’t provide information in accordance with the new legislation about their daily resident care hours and staffing skill mix, the private organisations will be “shamed on a public website.”

Since QNMU has been asking for action in the aged care sector for a long time, the organisation is happy to see Queensland is leading the way in aged care reforms.

Ms Eales says, “Rather than throw more money at the problem without linking it to better staffing or better accountability, as the Federal Government has recently done, these new Queensland laws address the core of the problem the aged care sector is currently facing, the need for more transparency, and more nursing hours so older Australians get the care they deserve.

“We welcome this new standard for staffing and care in Queensland’s 16 state-run residential aged care facilities, and call on the Federal Government to wake up and take real action to fix our country’s broken aged care sector.”

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