Aged Care Opinion

Ensuring sustainable staffing for aged care: Why a commonsense approach is needed towards mandated care minutes

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It’s imperative we support our elders to live with dignity and grace, ensuring they have access to the best possible care.

From 1 October 2023, a new mandate will require aged care residential services providers to deliver at least 200 minutes of care per resident each day.

This includes care delivered by registered nurses (RNs), enrolled nurses (ENs) and personal care workers (PCWs) or assistants in nursing (AINs) – also known as nursing assistants. 

The policy change is an outcome of the Royal Commission into Aged Care and is designed to ensure safe and quality care is provided to residents at all times.  

The initial 200 care minutes target is a sector-wide average which includes a minimum 40 minutes of direct care provided by Registered Nurses (RNs). 

In principle, I believe the mandate has put a focus on the need for improvement and will help to elevate quality of care across the country.  

However, as the aged care sector transforms, there are many things that need to be considered in order to resolve complex issues, especially regarding the delivery of quality care.

Whilst policymakers are understandably grappling with how to best embed change, there is a much simpler way to deliver the 40 minutes of clinical care required by the change.

While ENs already undertake critical care tasks, they are not included in these 40 minutes.  

This expectation and limitation of inclusion of ENs has created problems. Anecdotally, I’ve even heard of ENs being let go because their work is not recognised within the 40 minutes requirement.  

Furthermore, ENs have been discouraged from joining the aged care sector. This results in a further loss of skills and capabilities for the industry.  

In a similar vein, the holistic approach taken by providers in delivering quality care is not counted in the care minutes tally. This means the teams ensuring the cultural, spiritual and other general wellbeing of are not recognised.  

While these requirements are worthy in principle, in practice they don’t strike the right balance.  

With an ambition to improve clinical care in aged care, policymakers have taken a blanket approach.  

The changes are in many ways an overcorrection because the majority of residential aged care providers such as Fronditha Care have for many years been delivering exceptional care to thousands of elders through 24/7 clinical care and holistic care planning.  

At Fronditha Care, we are focused on delivering an eco-system of care.  

We have a diverse team of RNs, ENs, Support Services teams and health and wellbeing programs that contribute to quality care. 

We are committed to providing culturally appropriate care in a social, emotional and clinical capacity.  

People across the sector are working hard to improve the quality of care but unrealistic expectations of what is possible in the current climate, is having a deep impact on providers and by extension to the care of residents.  

A simple swift change to the requirements to include the contribution of ENs will make an immediate world of difference. 

No matter how much we reflect on the 40 minutes of nursing care, the key question is, without a sustainable workforce, how can we care for our elders? 

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An accomplished strategist Faye has extensive experience in executive leadership roles across government, corporate and for purpose sectors.

In February 2021, she was appointed CEO of Fronditha Care – a leading provider of aged care services and is committed to building on the legacy of the organisation in provision of care to the Greek and broader Australian community. She was also the first female President and Board Chair of the organisation and ended her 9-year tenure in 2019.

Her areas of expertise include aged care, cultural and religious diversity, gender parity, social justice, access and equity and social cohesion.
Passionate about achieving better social outcomes driven by genuine collaboration and engagement, in 2021 she was recognised with a Medal of the Order (OAM) for her contribution to driving social change and inducted to the Victorian Honour Roll for Women as a Change Agent in 2019.

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