The Australian government’s aged care sector has admitted it will not be able to meet its commitment to providing registered nurses at all times in aged care homes by mid-year. This comes after the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended having registered nurses on duty and providing each resident with a minimum of 200 minutes of care per day.
While 80% of facilities are meeting these requirements, 5% in rural and remote areas will not be able to meet them. The government has pledged to work closely with these facilities to provide exemptions and support.
One of the biggest issues in aged care is the shortage of staff. The sector is thousands of staff short of what it needs, and the government is raising the minimum pay standard in the sector by 15% from July to encourage more workers to join. Health Department figures from late last year show that the new staffing rules will create a shortfall of 8,400 registered nurses and 13,300 personal care workers.
Providers have warned that the target of having registered nurses on duty at all times is impossible to meet and is causing a great deal of stress in the sector.
Shadow Aged Care Minister Anne Ruston told ABC News that imposing rigid constraints on the aged care sector has proved damaging and that the broken promise of having nurses 24/7 has created serious distress and uncertainty for aged care providers and the older Australians they care for.
While the government acknowledges workforce shortages, it will take time to fix a sector that has been neglected. The government will work with facilities that believe they will not have nurses in place 24/7 by July, and there is no intention to close facilities that do not meet the target.
They will not, however, receive payment for meeting the requirement because the government is already paying for it. The aged care sector is under immense pressure and it will take a collective effort from the government, providers and workers to ensure that older Australians receive the care they need and deserve.