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Staff ratios in aged care should help ensure quality care

‘Not enough nursing staff’ is the main reason for residents missing out on care, followed by ‘too many residents with complex needs’ and ‘inadequate skills mix for your area’ according to a recent report. 

Vulnerable nursing home residents are missing out on the care they deserve (Source: iStock)
Vulnerable nursing home residents are missing out on the care they deserve (Source: iStock)

The survey 'National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project Report 2016' also found only 8.2 percent of respondents indicated staffing was always adequate and all nursing services and personal care interventions were missed at least some of the time.

“Aged care is in crisis,” says Lee Thomas, Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF). “Our members working on the ground are telling us how they’re finding it increasingly difficult to provide decent care to their patients, many of whom have dementia and other high-complex needs.”

She says this is because there’s a growing shortage of qualified nurses working in aged care.

“It’s not uncommon to have only the one Registered Nurse (RN) caring for over 130 people. That’s disgraceful,” she says. “Our ANMF analysis shows that residents should be receiving an average 4 hours and 18 minutes of care per day - compared to the current 2.84 hours which is currently being provided.”

“It’s little wonder that we’re seeing more and more ‘missed care’ episodes, where vulnerable nursing home residents are missing out on the care they deserve.”

Ms Thomas says there is a shortage of 20,000 aged care nurses and highlights it is crucial that nurses are not only recruited, but retained in the sector.

“The Government must start by reversing the billions of dollars its cut from aged care and working with industry to create a sustainable workforce strategy for not only nurses and carers, but the vulnerable nursing home residents they care for every day,” she says.

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas

“Workload management (the number and skill of RNs, ENs and PCAs) remains another priority and this can be achieved through legislation mandating the number of Registered Nurses 24/7 and a minimum staffing level and skill mix in aged care facilities.”

She believes mandated staff ratios will help ensure safe, quality care is being delivered to nursing home patients.

“The ANMF will continue to fight for better, safer care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society today – nursing home patients,” she says. 

“We’re calling on the Minister to reverse the funding cuts to aged care and to work with the ANMF to develop and implement a sustainable industry-led workplace strategy for aged care, which is long overdue.

“This will ensure we have the adequate numbers of qualified nurses and carers to look after Australia’s rapidly ageing population.”

Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt says Commonwealth-funded aged care homes are required by law to meet Accreditation Standards to ensure that quality care and services are provided to all care recipients. 

“The law requires that aged care homes maintain an adequate number of appropriately skilled staff to ensure that the care needs of care recipients are met,” he says. “The number of staff to care recipients varies across facilities based on care recipient mix and needs, which fluctuate, and facility size, design, and how work is organised including the extent to which services are outsourced.”

He highlights requirements will also change over time within individual homes as changes occur in the mix of care recipients’ needs.

“As there is no single optimum staffing level or mix that meets all circumstances in providing quality residential aged care, Commonwealth law does not include mandatory staff-to-care recipient ratios,” he says.

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