Aged care providers should employ more qualified nurses, say officials from the Department of Health.

Representatives from the Federal Department of Health were questioned yesterday as part of the Federal Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia.

The Australian Medical Association’s General Practice Chief, Richard Kidd, told the inquiry that nursing homes should employ more registered and enrolled nurses.

Dr Kidd said he agrees with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federations’ demands that at least 30 per cent of nursing home staff be registered nurses, and 20 per cent be enrolled nurses.

A 2016 study found that Australian nursing homes employed:

  • 108,000 personal care assistants,
  • 23,000 registered nurses,
  • 16,000 enrolled nurses, and
  • 7,000 allied health professionals.

Dr Kidd said he had recently had to perform a minor operation at a nursing home, and be assisted by a carer because no qualified nurses were available, The Advertiser has reported.

The carer became distressed during the procedure, a situation that could have been avoided if more a qualified nurse was available, Dr Kidd said.

Dr Kidd said there has been an “erosion” of the nursing workforce in aged care over the last 20 years.

Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Amy Laffan, told the inquiry that the number of nurses required on duty is determined by the care needs of residents, a standard that can fluctuate from day to day.

The inquiry into the quality of care in residential aged care facilities was established late last year to examine:

  • Mistreatment of residents in residential aged care facilities,
  • The reporting and response mechanisms in place to deal with incidents of mistreatment,
  • The treatment of whistle blowers in residential aged care,
  • The effectiveness of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commission, and the Charter of Care Recipients’ Rights and Responsibilities in protecting aged care consumers, and
  • Protections for aged care residents who do not have family, friends or other representatives to help while in aged care.


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