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RNs crucial in nursing homes, stresses union

Saturday, 16th April, 2016

Local president of the NSW Nurses and Midwife Association, Lynette Mitchell. PICTURE: Emily Roberts Local president of the NSW Nurses and Midwife Association, Lynette Mitchell. PICTURE: Emily Roberts

By Andrew Robertson

Like hundreds of other aged care workers across the state, Lynette Mitchell is hoping a months’ long campaign to keep registered nurses in nursing homes has been enough.

The local president of the NSW Nurses and Midwife Association (aged care) has been at the forefront of efforts locally to ensure state legislation maintains the requirement, which is under threat due to changes in Commonwealth law. 

Now, with the State Government due to respond to an inquiry into registered nurses in NSW nursing homes at the end of the month, Ms Mitchell said it was vital people know what is at stake.

Ms Mitchell, who is also an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) at St Anne’s nursing home, said RNs not only administered medication that AINs could not, but they also worked with doctors and pharmacists and “give us general advice on what needs to be done”.

She said they were especially important for high care and palliative residents, who would be forced out of their nursing home rooms and into hospitals without the expertise of an RN on site.

“We have five or six falls a day out there and we don’t want to have to send someone to the hospital every time they fall.”

Where there was once one RN in every ward at St Anne’s Ms Mitchell said now it was one for every two wards “but at least there is one there if we are doing medication and we need them”.

“We believe an RN should be in a facility at all times,” she said.

“It’s just going to clog up the hospital system if we don’t have them.

“We have done campaigns and got a lot of signatures; the public agree there should be RNs in nursing homes.

“We just want to make sure there is legislation so they (nursing home operators) can’t turn around and say they don’t have to have one.”

The association recently received the backing of over a dozen organisations, including the Council of the Aging and Cancer Council NSW, which sent an open letter supporting the campaign to Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

President Brett Holmes said that eliminating the requirement for RNs would not only put pressure on hospitals, but also have dire consequences for “the most vulnerable people in our society”.

Ms Mitchell said people needed to think about whether they would be happy if their own mother or father was in a nursing home that did not have an RN on duty 24/7.

“Would you have better peace of mind knowing they have a qualified RN in the facility to care for them, especially if they are palliative?”

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