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Union keeps fighting for registered nurses in aged care

NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes
Photo: NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes
The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has vowed to continue its fight to have one registered nurse on duty at all times in the state’s residential aged care facilities.

NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes labelled the Nationals and Liberal Party MPs’ move to recently vote down a bill, which aimed to reverse a 2014 State Government change to the Public Health Act 2010 that removed the requirement for one registered nurse to be on duty around-the-clock at facilities, as “disappointing”.

“We’ll continue, whether it’s in the state or in the federal jurisdiction, to make sure that we can do everything we can to provide the highest quality of care to the people who are most vulnerable in our residential aged care services,” he said.
“It’s a just battle and it’s one that the community of New South Wales should continue to support.”

The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party bill passed the state’s Upper House before it was defeated in the Lower House.

Mr Holmes said registered nurses perform an essential role in overseeing and delivering high level care, and the bill's defeat will erode the quality of care for the state’s most vulnerable people.

“What this obviously means, and the irony for the government is that it picks up the bill in terms of the numbers of admissions to our public hospitals that are there unnecessarily because these aged care facilities choose not to have registered nurses on duty 24 hours a day,” he said.

“In fact, they place them on call and there can be no registered nurses in some facilities all over a weekend. So all of that period, the assistants-in-nursing, the carers, the choices they have are simply to send these patients to the closest emergency department.

“That’s an unfriendly place for an aged person. There are situations where they obviously need to be there but there are many situations where they would be far better cared for in their own home, with the registered nurse there to direct care, to make the proper assessments of them, and to ensure that their lives are not disrupted, unnecessarily.”

Mr Holmes also rejected the government’s argument that the requirement to have a registered nurse on duty around-the-clock would force many small regional aged care facilities to close their doors.

“We know that the Commonwealth Government squibs this as well - its legislation only says 'sufficient numbers of suitably qualified', and that’s a complete out for many operators,” he added.

“They can choose then the level of qualification and many of them are obviously showing that they choose not to have registered nurses on duty 24 hours a day.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords