Staffing ratios has been an ongoing debate in aged care. Staff, residents and families have all been very vocal that better care comes from better staffing – and that means having more highly-trained nurses and appropriately-skilled carers available to offer care to Australia’s elderly.

Aged care consumers often complain that facilities staffing ratios are often low; with one carer or nurse responsible for caring for a large number of residents.

When this happens, the staff find themselves being rushed in trying to do their job properly. The “National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project Report 2016” found that residents should be receiving an average 4 hours and 18 minutes of care per day – but instead only 2.84 hours is currently being provided.

Without a mandated staffing ratios, it is up to the individual aged care facility to determine how many staff they have scheduled on duty per shift. In some cases, carers are hired to take on the responsibilities that is normally given to a nurse.

Yesterday in Parliament, Senator Derryn Hinch introduced the Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients Bill 2017), which aims to ensure that safe, quality care is provided to residents in aged care homes.

“Unfortunately, many of these Australians who have given so much to society are highly vulnerable, and are not currently guaranteed the standard of care they deserve within our aged care facilities,” said Senator Hinch.

“The passage of this Bill would be an important step in moving towards an aged care system that is more focussed on the protection of the elderly than on profit margins of aged care facilities.”

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) are urging for senators to vote for the bill that would ensure a specific number of carers and nurses per number of aged care residents.

Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the ANMF’s national aged care workforce survey showed that 92% of nurses and carers said they were now being asked to care for the same number of residents with less staff, less hours and that 90% said current staffing levels aren’t adequate to provide, essential daily care for residents.

“Our members keep warning that inadequate levels of registered and enrolled nurses and appropriately trained care workers means that the basic care they can provide, including feeding and bathing, is being significantly compromised.”

“Without mandated staffing or care hours in nursing homes, the Federal Government is allowing aged care providers to decide on what an ‘adequate’ level of care is and as we’ve recently seen in Queensland, some providers aren’t doing the right thing – sacking nurses and slashing hundreds of care hours,” Thomas said in reference to the Bundaberg aged care job cuts.

Thomas said that ANMF were particularly grateful to Senator Hinch, “he has listened to the concerns of aged care workers about how nursing home residents are suffering because of nursing and care worker shortages and an ongoing reduction in rostered care hours.”

Ms Thomas said the ANMF and its members will be meeting with Senator Hinch and other Senators and MPs in the coming weeks to advocate for the passing of the Bill through Parliament.

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