Story from The Advertiser – May 25 2018
AGED care homes should be required to employ a minimum number of qualified nurses to care for residents, an inquiry called in the wake of the Oakden scandal has been told.
Federal Health Department officials were quizzed by a House of Representatives committee inquiry about calls for new rules to ensure aged care staff have the skills needed to care for vulnerable residents.
Australian Medical Association general practice chief Richard Kidd told the inquiry nursing homes needed to employ more registered and enrolled nurses.
Queensland-based Dr Kidd, right, said he had recently had to perform a minor surgical procedure on a resident at an aged care home without the help of a nurse.
He had instead been assisted by a young personal care assistant who became distressed during the procedure.
“An experienced nurse would have been able to do it much more competently and it would have been much better for everyone involved,’’ Dr Kidd said.
“That’s a real example of what has changed in 20 years with that erosion of, in particular, the nursing workforce in aged care.’’
Dr Kidd said he supported the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s push for at least 30 per cent of nursing home staff to be registered nurses and 20 per cent to be enrolled nurses.
Nursing groups are concerned about nurses in aged care homes being replaced by personal care assistants with limited training.
Health Department assistant secretary Amy Laffan said current rules linked the numbers of nurses in aged care homes to the needs of residents.
“The legislation says it is determined by the care needs of recipients,’’ Ms Laffan told the inquiry. “Clearly that fluctuates over time on any given day, or any given week or year.’’
A 2016 workforce survey found Australia’s aged care homes employed 108,000 personal care assistants, 23,000 registered nurses, 16,000 enrolled nurses and 7,000 allied health professionals.
The committee inquiry has also heard concerns from experts about pain management in aged care homes.
In response to the mistreatment of residents at the former Oakden aged care facility, the Federal Government is establishing and independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. A special team will investigate major incidents and there will be more announced inspections of homes.
A new quality ratings system for aged care homes is also under development and a new standard for residential and community-based aged care services will be introduced.