The Albanese Government’s ambitious aged care targets continue to draw mixed reactions as the July 1 deadline approaches. The new regulatory changes will require all aged care facilities to have a Registered Nurse present 24/7, with only a few providers still failing to meet this requirement. However, larger providers have called for extended exemptions to the mandate, while some have closed their facilities citing financial and staffing pressures.
One provider that has announced the closure of three of its residential homes by 2024 is Brightwater Care Group. Brightwater CEO Catherine Stoddart said the age and size of the facilities and the increasing care needs of its residents were major factors in the decision. The staffing requirements set by the government made it difficult for them to deliver quality care sustainably. She added that the decision was not easy, but they had a responsibility to ensure the long-term delivery of high-quality care.
Wesley Mission also announced closing all its remaining aged care homes in the region by May due to challenges to the workforce and the flow-on impact of national reforms to aged care.
The government has reiterated that providers who fail to meet the new mandates by July will not need to close their doors. Instead, the government would work closely with them to provide the necessary support. However, this has not been enough to assuage the concerns of larger providers, who have been calling for extended exemptions. They claim that they are struggling to meet the new compliance requirements, and some have already closed down their facilities.
Despite this, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has stood firm on the government’s “ambitious” approach to aged care.
He defended staffing requirements, stating that they were necessary to improve aged care following the Royal Commission’s recommendations. He also highlighted that nearly 90% of residential facilities had already met the staffing requirements, which showed the government makes no apologies for being ambitious in this area.
“The fact that 90 per cent have met the (staffing) requirements already shows that we make no apologies for being ambitious in this area,” Albanese said. “But we’re also being very practical about the way that these issues are dealt with.”
However, Shadow Aged Care Minister Anne Ruston criticised the government’s handling of the situation, stating that they were “blatantly ignoring” workforce shortages. She added that aged care homes were now closing under their watch, and the government had broken its headline election promise to older Australians.
The government had previously conceded in March that the nursing deadline would be unachievable due to widespread staffing shortages.