Seniors call on parliament to pass aged care staff ratios bill

National Seniors Australia is calling on the Federal Parliament to pass legislation requiring the publication of staffing ratios in residential aged care.

Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said today National Seniors welcomed the recommendation from the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport that the legislation be passed.

National Seniors supported the publication of staffing rations in its submission to the committee.

“We saw this as a simple way of increasing transparency, choice and ultimately quality in residential aged care,” Mr Henschke said.

“This is basic information that should have always been available to consumers and families when choosing an aged care facility.

“The bill offers a common-sense approach to the issue of residential aged care and, if passed, will give consumers and their families more understanding about the capacity of an aged care home to look after older people’s needs.”

Mr Henschke said it was clear the number of skilled staff in nursing homes had an impact on the quality of care experienced by residents.

“We know this because our members tell us this all the time,” Mr Henschke said. (See quotes attached.)

“The provision of care to older Australians is labour intensive. It requires adequate numbers of staff with appropriate qualifications to give assistance to residents who are increasingly frail and who are often suffering difficult medical conditions, such as dementia, which require constant support and supervision.”

Mr Henschke said National Seniors had raised the issue of staffing ratios in its submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

“National Seniors calls on the parliament to pass this amendment as it will be one further step toward better quality and safety in aged care,” Mr Henschke said.

Ian Henschke is available for interview.

Media contact: Lynda Schekoske 0488 047 380 or 07 3233 9134

Direct quotes from National Seniors members relating to residential aged care staffing:

The second most common complaint is the understaffing. Mostly there is only one qualified nursing sister supported by nursing aides who cannot administer medicine or make decisions about care.

Minimum staff to resident ratios is urgently needed in Aged Care. I was a Registered Nurse (RN) employed in an Aged Care Facility for just under 20 years and during that time where we use to have 2 RN's for 50 residents in 3 high care sections and an RN in the Hostel section of 40 residents on a day shift (7am - 3:30pm) in the last 12 months our number was reduced to 1 RN for the whole facility of 90 residents.

There is no current requirement for a registered nurse on each shift but there should be.

There should be an established nurse to patient ratio requirement for all aged care facilities. It is interesting to note that the childcare industry has mandated minimum staff to children ratios, public hospitals have or are introducing nurse to patient ratios, but the equally vulnerable older people are seemingly not sufficiently important to warrant such ratios. This is an example of ageism at its worst.

There were wonderful carers mostly, but they were so pushed, not enough of them, poor language skills, not enough awareness of important issues. BUT even so it is compassion, empathy, communication, respect and a willingness to listen and work hard which is needed in aged care, degrees are not what is needed, more caring hands are sorely needed.

I have friends who had a parent in aged care, and they felt that their complaints were not attended to properly. The main problem, of course, is lack of staff numbers to properly care for people in nursing homes. The number of staff needs to be doubled. It is even worse on weekends.

Make sure there is an adequate number of trained staff available to match demand. Many staff members work very hard and are under strain at present.

Residents have at times waited up to 30 minutes for a response to their call button when they have needed help, medicines have been late, urine containers have not been emptied, beds have not been made. The staff are doing the best they can, but they cannot care for high care, dementia, and low care residents as they want to.

My Dad passed away in a palliative care unit at the local hospital – the hospital insisted that he should return to the home and be nursed. When he arrived by ambulance at (the hospital), he had been suffering from diarrhea, vomiting and his overall condition was very poor. I had in fact left work to help care for him. In the home the situation was deplorable, hygiene was at a low and a number of residents had the same complaint, staff just couldn’t cope.

My mother was in a nursing home for just under two years. She was unable to leave her bed. I visited her every day. She was well looked after, and the people were kind but too busy to really stop and care beyond meeting physical needs.

With an ever-ageing population and their residents only going to need greater levels of care, I think a good look at staffing levels per number of patients and level of training needs to be addressed - across the whole aged care sector!

There are not enough staff to handle patient care such as moving someone when more than 1 nurse may be required or when more than 1 person needs help at the same time.

The workload for RNs in aged care is excessive with missed meal breaks and rarely finishing on time. Trying to keep up with each resident's condition/needs, supervising staff, documentation including nursing care plans, attending meetings, doctor's rounds was exhausting.

My mother has been in a home for six years and I have watched the level of care decline over this time and they have drastically cut staff.

At night there are no RNs on duty, so no-one with true medical experience is there to help with minor or major problems... practice is to call an ambulance - not helpful if someone is bleeding after a fall or having breathing difficulties.

At night patients are looked in on too infrequently. If anyone falls after 10.00pm they may end up lying there till 6.00am if they cannot reach the buzzer (which happened with my mum).

There is generally a shortage of adequately trained aged care workers, especially during the night.

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