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Long wait for a five-star model in aged care

Long wait for a five-star model in aged care
Photo: Long wait for a five-star model in aged care
Doctors and nurses call on the Government to implement minimum staff time recommended by the Royal Commission urgently and expedite a five-star model of care, including 24-hour registered nurse (RN) staffing in aged care.

The Royal Commission’s Final Report recommends from July next year, the minimum qualified staff time in nursing homes should be 200 minutes per resident per day – about three hours and 20 minutes – with at least 40 minutes provided by an RN. This is a three-star model.

It also recommends the minimum staff time standard require at least one registered nurse on the morning and afternoon shifts from 1 July 2022 but has delayed the introduction of 24-hour RN staffing until July 2024.

The five-star model is 264 minutes of care or more - four hours and 24 minutes - with 63 or more minutes with a RN.
AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid says while pleased the Royal Commissioners agreed that minimum staff ratios need mandating, he urges the Government to hasten 24-hour RN care.

“We believe there’s no reason why our older Australians should have to wait another three years until they have nurses available to care for them at all times.

“With the average length of stay in a nursing home at two-and-a-half years, many residents who could benefit now will have died by 2024 and will have suffered needlessly in the meantime.

“Many nursing homes have insufficient numbers of registered nurses, leading older people’s physical conditions to deteriorate so badly they end up in hospital. Conditions like urinary tract infections, nutritional deficiencies and as we’ve seen, even gangrene could have been prevented in the first place,” says Dr Khorshid.

AMA’s research paper Putting Health Care Back into Aged Care shows that older Australians end up in hospitals more frequently and stay longer when preventable conditions develop.

“We estimated on average people aged over 85 with potentially preventable conditions stay in hospital one-and-a-half extra days than people with non-preventable conditions* – and that’s putting further pressure on our already over-stretched emergency departments.

“The AMA’s latest research shows with GPs at the heart of aged care settings backed by more nurses, our seniors get far better care, and with immediate reform, there are enormous savings for Government and the hospital sector. It has got to be a no-brainer.

“We’ve estimated that over the 12 months until 30 June this year, there will have been 27,569 hospital transfers from nursing homes that were potentially preventable, costing $312 million and occupying 160,000 patient days,” Dr Khorshid said.

Annie Butler, ANMF Federal Secretary, says the Government urgently needs to act faster to deliver adequate care to protect vulnerable nursing home residents.

“Doctors and nurses see no justifiable reason for the three-year wait to implement what is a basic human right for anyone requiring best-practice care. A sufficient, committed, and high-quality workforce is one of the main factors impacting the quality and safety of aged care.

“Once the visiting GP departs the nursing home, RNs are the only qualified aged care staff able to provide appropriate clinical care to patients.

“If the Government wants to do justice by our older Australians and give them the respect they need and deserve enabling them to live in dignity in their old age, it must provide funding for the minimum staff time standard and availability of registered nurses 24/7 in nursing homes in the upcoming Budget.

“And that funding must be transparent and accountable – with taxpayer subsidies directly tied to the provision of safe, proper care for elderly nursing homes residents.

“As the Royal Commission pointed out, ‘transparency and accountability should be embedded in the new aged care system’. Currently, there is no specific regulation or requirement that aged care providers spend any of the billions they receive each year in Government subsidies on direct care.

“It’s little wonder that elderly Australians continue to suffer without proper care,” says Ms Butler.

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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.