Linda Burney, NSW deputy opposition leader and shadow Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, says as part of its health policy, a NSW Labor government will legislate to extend the legal requirement that NSW aged care facilities must have a registered nurse on duty at all times.
“Having senior nurses in NSW aged care facilities is good for the wellbeing of residents and provides peace of mind to family members with loved ones in nursing homes,” Ms Burney says.
“This measure also support nurses and protects aged care residents, particularly those in high care – who are among the most vulnerable in our society.
“We make no apologies for improving the health and wellbeing of aged care residents. This is about ensuring that NSW aged care residents have the best possible care," she says.
Currently, the registered nurse requirement is only in place in NSW until December 2015 – and NSW is reportedly the only Australian jurisdiction with this requirement.
Registered nurses oversee medications, including side effects; undertake nursing procedures like wound care and urinary catheters; provide palliative care and support and supervise (ENs) enrolled nurses and assistants in nursing (AiNs).
The NSW Public Health Act 2010 requires all ‘nursing homes’ in NSW to have a registered nurse on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week, but, last year, changes to the Commonwealth Aged Care Act 1997 by the federal government impacted on the NSW Public Health Act. This removed the requirement of a registered nurse.
However, on 13 June 2014, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, wrote to the NSW aged care sector putting forward an interim measure until December 2015. She said she wanted to consult with nursing home operators. Labor will make the registered nurse requirement permanent.
NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord says state Labor wanted to provide certainty to aged care residents and their families and make the registered nurse in aged care a legal requirement.
“Having a registered nurse on duty also gives other nurses extra support, back-up and experience when it comes to making decisions involving the welfare of aged care residents,” Mr Secord says.
The registered nurse requirement would also reduce the number of transfers by aged care facilities of residents to the State’s emergency departments – which are experiencing an increase in the number of older people presenting to hospital.
Furthermore, the registered nurse requirement comes at a time when the federal government has slashed funding to aged care at the national level and reduced the oversight by diminishing the role of the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency.
“NSW Labor understands the valuable role and support registered nurses provide to residents and other nurses. They ensure the high-quality of care of residents in aged care,” Mr Secord says.
“Registered nurses do an extraordinary job looking after aged care residents, especially when performing the difficult and critical task of providing palliative care,” he adds.
A Foley Labor government will retain the requirement of registered nurses at all times in aged care facilities beyond December 2015.
Under the NSW Public Health Act 2010, failure to comply with the registered nurse requirement carries a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units or a $11,000 fine.
There are about 880 Commonwealth accredited aged care facilities in NSW run by some 300 aged care providers.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has been calling for registered nurses in aged care facilities.