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No funding or workers to implement recent amendments to Aged Care Reform Bill

Late on Wednesday night, amendments were made to the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 2) Bill in the Federal Senate that will make nursing care available 24/7 in aged care facilities.

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The AACC wants to see immediate workforce action in aged care to ensure that providers can deliver on the new Bill amendment. [Source: Shutterstock]

While this is a positive step forward in ensuring that people living in aged care homes have access to consistent nursing care, the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), a body consisting of six aged care peak bodies, says that this change still won't fix the ongoing funding and worker issues in aged care.

The AACC pointed out that if the Bill does pass the House of Representatives (Lower House), aged care providers will need emergency funds and additional workers to implement the 24 hour nurse coverage in facilities all over the country.

Sean Rooney, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and AACC representative, says that if these resources aren't made available, there could be a serious risk of closures of some aged care facilities.

"We welcome the amendments to bring forward the requirement for 24 hour registered nurse coverage in aged care homes but providers will need emergency funding and extra staff to provide the coverage," explains Mr Rooney.

"Given that aged care is already experiencing a serious workforce shortage and low wages, even before the pandemic, there is a serious risk that some regional, rural and remote providers could close without emergency funding to support greater coverage by registered nurses.

"More than 80 percent of aged care homes already have registered nurses on shift overnight, but some facilities have difficulty finding suitable staff to work these shifts."

With one in five aged care workers expected to quit in the next 12 months and a recent report finding that aged care wages aren't keeping up with the cost of living, the AACC is concerned that 24/7 nursing in aged care may stretch providers and the workforce further.

The AACC wants to see immediate workforce action in aged care to ensure that providers can deliver on the new Bill amendment.

Senator Rex Patrick introduced the 24/7 nursing in aged care amendments to the Bill back in October and has welcomed the passing of the amendments in the Senate, saying that this amendment will meet the recommendations put forward by Royal Commissioners.

However, the amendments still need to pass through the House of Representatives (Lower House) and Senator Patrick has called on the Government to pass the amendment in the Lower House as well.

"For the sake of our loved ones in the aged care system, I am calling on the Government to do the right thing and deal with this Bill in the [Lower] House as a matter of urgency," says Senator Patrick.

"Since October last year, the Government has deliberately delayed the Parliament in dealing with this Bill because they knew the Senate would support my amendment to implement the Royal Commission’s 24/7 registered nurse recommendation.

"Rather than work proactively to improve things for our elderly citizens, the Government deliberately kicked the can down the road to be dealt with who knows when.

"I’m concerned many aged care residents are not getting the care they need and that their care is highly variable depending on where they are located across Australia. The inconsistent approach leads to variations, often negative in nature, in the level of care and quality provided to residents."

Senator Patrick believes it is critical for older Australians to receive quality care and having registered nurses on-site at all times will assist with that.

He says that having registered nurses in aged care 24/7 will improve the quality of end of life care, improve communication between residents, family and health care professionals, and promote wellbeing issues that affect restorative care.

Senator Patrick is hoping for the Bill to be introduced to the Lower House today.

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