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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Role of nurses needs to be expanded in aged care reform

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The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has welcomed the delivery of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, saying that the Federal Government now has two clear roadmaps to reforming the sector.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian College of Nursing, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, said the historic final report delivered real opportunities for reform.

“The Royal Commission has laid out two real templates for change, and it is now up to the Government to stand strong and deliver on one of these options,” she said.

“We must not use this historic split as an excuse to do nothing about a sector so badly in need of reform.”

The Royal Commission called for additional support for nurses as part of its changes to improve aged care, including minimum time with a nurse for residents, Medicare Benefits Scheme changes to support nurse practitioners in assessing the health of residents and greater transparency around staffing hours in aged care facilities, moves which were welcomed by Ward.

“These changes will contribute to a nursing workforce that is capable of supporting residents in aged care facilities,” Ward said.

“However, while minimum timeframes are welcome, we must demand that this does not become care by timesheet. Rather, nurses need time to provide holistic care to meet the individual needs of each person.”

Ward also embraced calls for registration and mandatory minimum qualifications for personal care workers who currently provide the bulk of aged care.

“Unregulated workers have been able to go untracked and unchecked for far too long in aged care,” she said.

“These changes will protect care workers who provide exceptional care, while embedding accountability for those who perform badly and should be removed from the sector.”

While Ward said the Government’s initial response to the Royal Commission was encouraging, she said more needs to be done to ensure that the changes that are necessary for the system can occur.

“While we welcome the immediate funding rollout, we have real concerns about the lack of workforce data to understand how to deliver safe, appropriate care for those who choose to be supported in their homes,” she said.

“We call on the Government to support our call, outlined in our budget submission to Treasury, for a research program into understanding the long-term nursing workforce requirements for home care.”

The royal commission has called for a number of critical changes to the aged care system, including significant reform to the Aged Care Act, funding levels and the assessment system.

Ward said that these recommendations would be assessed in detail by an ACN-led Expert Advisory Group of nurses in the coming weeks.

“This is an extraordinary report which requires the appropriate attention to ensure that every aspect can be dealt with in its importance,” she said.

“It is crucial that the voices of nurses are heard in the response to this report to identify the best way to enact the Royal Commission’s recommendations.”

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