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Aged care nurses join ratio campaign

Friday, 11th May, 2018

Local NSWNMA aged care delegates (left) Christine Spangler, Lynette Mitchell and union member (middle) Marife Rogers will be at the stall tomorrow to provide information on the Aged Care nurses’ latest fight. Local NSWNMA aged care delegates (left) Christine Spangler, Lynette Mitchell and union member (middle) Marife Rogers will be at the stall tomorrow to provide information on the Aged Care nurses’ latest fight.

By Emily Roberts

Local aged care nurses will join the fight tomorrow to ensure that nursing ratios are introduced across Australia.

The NSW Nurses and Midwife Association (NSWNMA) along with states of Australia are set to launch their new campaign ‘Make Ratios in Aged Care Law, Now’ this weekend.

Local NSWNMA aged care delegate Christine Spangler said they would be holding a stall at the Community Markets tomorrow to let people know what they are doing.

“On International Nurses Day this Saturday, we are making it a national day of action to make aged care ratios law,” she said.

“There are no ratios at all in aged care.

“It is up to the provider to put on the staff they think is required.

“So for each shift there might only be one Registered Nurse (RN) for 160 people.

“This is an issue that Australia is facing.

“The minimum skills mix required would be RNs 30 per cent, Enrolled Nurses (EN) 20 per cent and Assistants in Nursing (AIN) 50 per cent.”

The benefits of improved nurse-to-resident ratios in aged care are obvious. 

Better ratios will prevent falls and other incidents and give nurses more time to adequately supervise wandering residents and to de-escalate aggressive situations that often arise with dementia.

Ratios will also allow nurses more time to give residents the attention and personal care that would make their twilight years more comfortable and fulfilling.

Ms Spangler said the Federal Aged Care Minister has spoken out about the issue, but doesn’t seem to understand it.

“Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has said that he doesn’t think ratios would fix the problem,” she said.

“Aged care workers feel like they are a robot in a factory - the workloads are too much.

“Imagine being a checkout worker at a shopping centre on Christmas Eve, well that’s us every day.”

The aged care sector simply needs more nursing staff to meet these challenges, Ms Spangler said.

Minister Wyatt bases that statement on information from the Productivity Commission.

“There is no clear evidence or research that suggests implementing nurse or staff to patient ratios will actually increase the quality of care,” he said.

The Productivity Commission believes ratios are a “blunt instrument”.

“On balance, the Commission considers that, at this stage, the imposition of a simple staff ratio is a relatively blunt instrument, particularly given that the care resident profile of every facility will be ever changing. 

“Such ratios become particularly problematic for small facilities, and a rigid application of ratios could create operational difficulties for these facilities. 

“Further, the existing quality accreditation process (supported by the complaints handling process) provides a mechanism for encouraging providers to apply an appropriate skills mix and staffing level in the delivery of community and residential aged care services” (Regarding ratios: Productivity Commission, Caring for Older Australians (2011), Volume 2, p.367).

Minister Wyatt said aged care was a top Government priority.

“Ensuring Australian aged care has a strong supply and adequate provision of appropriately trained, skilled and resourced staff is a top Government priority,” he said. 

“Demand is growing rapidly, with projections Australia will require almost one million aged care staff by 2050, up from the 360,000 currently employed.”

Minister Wyatt said the development of the Aged Care Taskforce was created to help tackle the issues.

“That is why I announced a workforce taskforce last November (with a $2 million budget to support detailed consultation and research across the country) which is due to produce Australia’s first aged care workforce strategy by July 2018,” he said.

“The recommendations will be carefully considered because ensuring safe, quality aged care is paramount.

“A new Industry Reference Committee (IRC) is also currently being formed to tackle critical skills and workforce issues identified by the Taskforce. 

“This committee will include representation from aged care providers, unions and community groups.”

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