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Issue #1784      July 5, 2017

Nurse-patient ratios

The wide-ranging recommendations of a Senate Inquiry into Australia’s under-resourced aged care workforce should finally be enough for the federal government to take urgent action to introduce minimum nurse and staffing requirements in nursing homes, says to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The union’s federal secretary Lee Thomas said the ANMF was pleased the Inquiry finally acknowledged the ANMF’s ongoing concerns about dangerously-low nurse to resident staffing levels and the need for minimum nurse requirements to meet the ever-increasing demands for care. The Committee found current nurse ratios were “too low and risked compromising the quality of care delivered” and recommended providers publish their workforce ratios “in order to facilitate informed decision-making by aged care consumers.”

“We thank the Senators for listening to the shocking evidence that nurses, carers and the families of frail, nursing home residents have put to the Inquiry,” Thomas said.

“This Inquiry received over 325 Submissions, many of which were confidential or name withheld due to the extremely sensitive nature of the evidence. Our members working on the ground in aged care recounted shocking stories of how their elderly, vulnerable patients were being neglected due to inadequate staffing, with evidence of just one qualified nurse caring for up to 85 patients.

“All this evidence, on top of report after report into aged care, must now be enough for the Aged Care Minister to accept the Committee’s recommendations and fix the crisis in aged care and improve the lives of vulnerable, elderly Australians living in nursing homes.”

A damning report last month released by the Australian Law Reform Commission revealed that the lack of minimum staffing regulations and appropriate skills mix have resulted in the abuse of elderly, vulnerable nursing home patients.

It found that the proportion of registered and enrolled nurses has decreased and the proportion of Assistants in Nursing/Personal Care Workers (AIN/PCW) has increased – 70 percent of direct care workers in residential care are now AIN/PCW, some of whom have no minimum training qualifications. Another report shows that the number of deaths in nursing homes from preventable causes has increased by 400 percent over the past 13 years.

“The Committee has heard the horror stories and has recommended that the National Workforce Strategy includes a minimum number of qualified nurses working in aged care, along with an added recommendation that the government consider requiring aged care service providers to publish their staff to client ratios.

“We think this is an excellent initiative which will make the sector become safer and more transparent and make providers more accountable. After all, the families of nursing home residents have a right to know the level of care they can expect to receive.

“It’s time for the government to act now and accept the Committee’s recommendations and address the urgent and undeniable need for minimum staffing levels in aged care. This is critical to the survival of people living in nursing homes everywhere.”

Next article – Dismantle this violation of human rights

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