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Ratios for Aged Care - Make Them Law Now

The ANMF calls on the Morrison Government to urgently respond to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Final Report’s recognition that staffing levels in aged care are too low and that staff ratios should be introduced to ensure that there are sufficient nursing and other care staff present at all times in residential aged care.

The ANMF has long-campaigned for the introduction of safe staffing laws - to stop the suffering of elderly Australians living in residential aged care facilities. We thank the Royal Commissioners, the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO, for acknowledging the importance of the right numbers of the right types of staff in guaranteeing safe, dignified care for every older Australian.

“This Government and many previous Governments, have done nothing to address ever-increasing shortages of registered nurses and qualified carers working in aged care. Without adequate staffing and skills mix, with minimum standards for care workers, nursing home residents have suffered terribly, as a result of inadequate levels of care."

“The Morrison Government must now act; every day the Government delays taking action to address dangerous understaffing in nursing homes and community care, is another sad day, that vulnerable residents will continue to suffer.”

Workers demand Action for Aged Care

The unions representing aged care workers and the ACTU have launched a comprehensive plan to fix our broken aged care system, protect workers who have been at the front line of the fight against the virus and provide better quality care to older Australians. The HSU, ANMF and UWU represent workers who do invaluable work in incredibly difficult conditions but have been let down by a Government who has ignored critical issues in aged care.

Secure jobs for workers in aged care means better quality care for older Australians.

The document calls for the following essential changes:

  1. Mandated minimum staffing levels and required mix of skills and qualifications in every residential facility, over every shift.
  2. Transparency and accountability for Government funding.
  3. Mandated training requirements (including infection control and ongoing professional development) accessible to all staff and paid by employer.
  4. Government funding is required to be increased, linked to the provision of care and the direct employment of permanent staff with decent pay and enough hours to live on.

ANMF National COVID-19 in Aged Care survey

Australia’s aged care sector is indisputably understaffed and the workers who are there are in many cases doing the best they can with little support, few resources, and limited recognition by providers and more broadly within the public domain.

  • Many aged care providers need to increase their staffing levels and skills mix to deliver safe quality care for vulnerable residents and clients.
  • Higher levels of staffing and better skills mix with greater numbers of registered nurses and enrolled nurses would provide better infection control and health care as well as greater support to nurses, care workers, and other staff.
  • Workloads in aged care are often unmanageable and have been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic across the sector.

The Aged Care COVID-19 Survey conducted from 15 April to 6 May 2020 aimed to assess aged care workers’ sense of their employer’s preparedness to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the strategies that had been put in place as well as identify the key challenges and major gaps in the aged care sector’s response to COVID-19 from the perspective of those providing direct care to older Australians.

Aged Care Royal Commission COVID-19 report

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety delivered a special report on the COVID-19 pandemic in aged care, tabled in the Australian Parliament on 1 October 2020, ahead of its Final Report. The report is the result of a hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety into the impact of COVID-19 on aged care, which was held in Sydney from 10 to 13 August 2020.

The Australian Government accepted and has acted on all six recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on COVID-19. The Australian Government’s response to these recommendations was tabled in Parliament ahead of the 1 December deadline. The Implementation Progress Report on the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report – Aged Care and COVID-19 – a special report is available on the Department of Health’s website.

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
In September 2018, the federal government announced a Royal Commission into the aged care sector. The announcement came ahead of a damning two-part Four Corners investigation into elder neglect and poor conditions in aged care, as well as years of campaigning by the ANMF to fix systemic issues preventing nursing and care staff from delivering safe best practice care.

For more information about the Royal Commission into the aged care sector and updates from the ANMF including our own submissions, go to our Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety update page here.

Australia should be a world leader in aged care delivery

That’s why nurses and doctors have joined forces in calling for aged care ratios.The ANMF, the AMA, RACGP and ANZSGM published a letter in The Australian newspaper calling on Prime Minister Morrison to legislate minimum staffing ratios that will enable the delivery of the holistic care plans needed to ensure safe and best practice care for all elderly Australians. Read the full letter here.

Aged Care Ratios Make Economic Sense
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has released compelling evidence which outlines how mandated minimum staffing ratios in aged care can be implemented to bring improvements in care outcomes for elderly nursing home residents while also providing economic benefits. Independent economic analysis, undertaken by the Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute (AITI), not only outlines the financial benefits of implementing mandated minimum staffing levels for the care of the elderly but also warns of the ‘significant costs’ of not mandating the minimum levels of nursing and care hours in nursing homes.

About the Campaign

Australia's elderly die in care with no laws to protect them

Over the last 13 years, chronic understaffing has seen a 400% increase in preventable deaths of elderly Australians in aged care with hundreds dying from falls, choking and suicide. They are our parents and grandparents, people who looked after us and loved us, but now many of them, especially those in need of high care, are left unfed, unwashed and even in soiled nappies for hours.

Hard-pressed nurses and care staff do the best they can in impossible circumstances, but they are run off their feet and can’t provide the care they want to. And while our nurses and care staff struggle because there is simply not enough of them, last year*, owners of Aged Care facilities racked up over $1 billion in profits while cutting staff.

Australia has strict staff ratios for childcare, which is as it should be. But there are no ratios for aged care and no laws to ensure our elderly get the care they need.

It’s a crisis that shames us. Our Aged Care system has been ignored by governments for far too long.

*that all indications from major for-profit and non-profit company reports continue to show further increases in profitability in the 2016-17 financial year.

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Aged care providers putting profits before their responsibility to care

Australia’s top six aged care providers, some with foreign ownership, posted enormous profits whilst taking advantage of AUD $2.17 billion in Australian taxpayer funded subsidies, using various loopholes, corporate structures and discretionary trusts to avoid paying their fair share of tax, according to a new report examining tax avoidance in the rapidly-growing aged care sector. The report, Tax Avoidance by For-Profit Aged Care Companies: Profit Shifting on Public Funds, was prepared by Jason Ward from the Tax Justice Network, on behalf of the ANMF. View the full report: http://bit.ly/anmf-taxavoidancereport

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Authorised by A.Butler, Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Level 1 / 365 Queen St, Melbourne, VIC 3000.