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Exciting VR project allowing older persons to revisit their past and explore new worlds

A collaboration between the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Design Lab, Griffith University, the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University has unveiled the transformative power of integrating virtual reality (VR) in aged care settings.

Transforming Aged Care with Virtual Reality (VR), a research project funded by a Meta (Facebook) philanthropic research grant, investigated aged care residents’, carers’ and families’ experiences as they engaged with VR headsets in their facilities over 2021 and the early months of 2022.

Professor Evonne Miller, chief investigator and director of the QUT Design Lab, says that such technology has given older persons the opportunity to revisit their past and explore new worlds or activities.

“COVID-19 has been especially hard on people in aged care. One way to improve their lives is to use technology like virtual and augmented reality, which allows them to leave the four walls of their home.”

Professor Evonne Miller, director of the QUT Design Lab, says that virtual reality headsets are a positive addition to aged care, helping residents to escape and explore even when they are physically incapable of leaving their facility.

The project installed the technologies in three aged care facilities in Queensland and Victoria, with Miller noting positive outcomes on resident mental health and overall wellbeing from all participating sites.

“We integrated VR technologies into three Australian aged care facilities to find ways of better socially connecting residents with each other, staff and their families during this pandemic; and to provide older aged care residents with creative, novel and intellectually-stimulating leisure activities – ensuring daily life is exciting, rather than mundane and monotonous.

“VR can take them back to their honeymoon, let them reconnect to something important from their past or travel to a country they always wanted to visit.

“They can sky-dive, ride a gondola through Venice, sail a yacht and so much more.

“The possibilities are limitless and overcome mobility and health problems.”

An anonymous activity manager involved in the project noted that whilst it was a bit tricky in the beginning to get a grasp on how to use the technology, the activity had an incredibly positive impact on residents.

“I ran a session all by myself and it was a bit hard but still could manage to take Heather to Alaska, Keith on a helicopter and Rita to Africa.

“It was a short session, but I had five residents that attended. New people want to give it a go, so I think it’s going well.”

As part of the project’s final reporting, the research team have developed a Transformational Toolkit, which will be used to advise aged care facilities on how they can integrate such technology in their own facilities.

Leonie Sanderson, a visiting fellow with the QUT School of Design and the research’s VR project manager, says that the toolkit includes advice on cost of headsets, how to get started, where to find apps, safety assessments and physical space requirements.

“It can cost as little as $600 to get the right VR headsets with storage cases and adjustable head straps.

“We recommend aged care facilities set themselves up with at least two or more headsets so multiple residents can enjoy the experience at the same time.”

Sanderson notes that it make take some convincing of senior management to invest in such cutting edge approaches to recreation.

“… But it is very doable, and the effort is worth the investment of time and money.

“Our trials produced levels of happiness and resulted in stories being shared and people feeling more valued and engaged.”

The launch of the toolkit will happen as part of The Big Reach, a two day program running from May 26-27 at QUT, which explores creative approaches to tackling the mental health crisis.

It is a preliminary offshoot of the The Big Anxiety, Australia’s national mental health and arts festival, that will run from September 24 to October 15 in Melbourne 2022.  

To find out more about the project and to access further resources, follow this link.

Health dept tips for managing influenza and COVID-19 in aged care

Vaccines save lives. Put simply — the best way to protect yourself and fellow staff, your residents, their families from influenza (flu) and COVID is to get vaccinated.

This winter an increase in influenza cases is expected and with COVID continuing to circulate at the same time, it is important to be protected against flu and COVID.

The department of health strongly encourages facility operators and management to engage with residents and workers to discuss vaccination options and support the consent process to achieve optimum vaccination coverage.

Operators should also be assisting in-home and community care recipients and workers to understand how they can access flu and COVID vaccinations.

Having your arrangements in place early, so that you can offer vaccinations and boosters to your residents and staff, will help to minimise potential outbreaks and severity of disease.

Under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), flu vaccinations are free if you are aged 65 years or older, and is also recommended for all people aged six months and over (unless contraindicated).

For COVID, you need a booster to stay up to date with your vaccinations if you are 16 years and over.

The health department encourages facility operators to make sure eligible populations have had or will receive their additional COVID booster dose before the winter season.

Please look at the available information on accessing flu vaccinations through the NIP on the Department’s website, and the promotional materials including posters and brochures that you can use from the 2022 influenza resource collection.

Infection Protection Control (IPC) in an outbreak

Maintaining infection prevention and control measures continues to be very important in minimising the impact of flu and COVID.

While the IPC lead nurses play a core role in ensuring that IPC competency is sustained, IPC behaviours should be a core part of everyone’s role.

All staff (management, care workers and support staff) should be trained in basic infection prevention and control. You may wish to encourage staff to refresh their on-line training available on the health department’s website.

It is safe to work in a flu or COVID outbreak with good IPC practices. These include increased hand hygiene, PPE use, cleaning and waste disposal.

In addition, screening of staff, visitors and other entrants to residential facilities is a key component of early detection of possible flu or COVID.

This includes monitoring for symptoms, not attending if unwell, and wearing an appropriate mask to reduce the risk of transmission.

Influenza and COVID-19 treatments

To complement vaccination and infection prevention and control, access to oral treatments is a key tool in managing both flu and COVID infections where clinically appropriate.

To support this, the COVID oral antiviral, molnupiravir (Lagevrio) was distributed in February this year to all residential aged care facilities for resident only COVID cases.

Lagevrio is now listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and can be accessed through community pharmacies with a prescription.

Further information and resources on COVID treatments are available at COVID‑19 oral treatments and Lagevrio.

Influenza treatment deployment in residential aged care

From this week, packs of the prescription-only medication, Tamiflu (oseltamivir), an oral antiviral used to treat and prevent influenza A and B infections, will be deployed to residential aged care facilities (RACF) in a one-off pre-placement. This is part of the Department of Health’s 2022 winter preparedness plan.

This stock is being pre-placed to ensure access to supplies at the commencement of this year’s flu season.

The department says this is not intended to replace standard supply chains used by providers, rather it reduces the impacts of supply shortages within the private market and the delays in shipping that may result from increased demand during the winter period.

RACFs will need to source additional supply through community pharmacies in line with normal arrangements once the pre-placed stock has been expended.

Note: Western Australia RACFs without permits to hold medications will need to access the pre-placed stock through WA Health. In the event of an influenza outbreak, they should contact their Public Health Unit to request urgent approval to have a deployment of Commonwealth Government stocks.

Additional communication will be sent out separately this week about deployment details for each jurisdiction.

Responsibilities of approved providers

Prepare residents and families

RACFs are encouraged to pre-assess residents for suitability for Tamiflu and seek resident or family consent ahead of an influenza outbreak and to ensure agreed arrangements with an authorised prescriber for timely provision of prescriptions when needed.

Ensure appropriate storage

RACFs must safely store the medicines when they arrive so they are accessible in an influenza outbreak. Tamiflu must be kept in a secure, cool dry place where the temperature stays below 25°C.

Monitor residents for symptoms and act

Given the short period of time to act (within 48 hours of symptom onset), RACFs should activate their outbreak management plan, in line with Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of Influenza Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities, when symptoms are first detected, including a clinical assessment, test and treatment pathway.

Safe and effective medication administration

Tamiflu is a Schedule 4 Prescription Only medication. The pre-placed Tamiflu can only be used for residents of aged care facilities following prescription by an authorised prescriber.

Nurse practitioners may prescribe medicines as private prescriptions according to their state/territory prescribing accreditation.

The medicines which can be prescribed differ between states and territories.

Nurse practitioners should check whether they have authority to prescribe Tamiflu under their relevant state or territory medicines and poison legislation.

You can find further information in the following resources:

The health department says testing for flu and COVID is a critical step to determining appropriate treatment for both flu and COVID and ensuring the right medication is administered in a timely way. But please note that a lab-confirmed positive flu result is not required for a GP or nurse practitioner to prescribe Tamiflu.

Labor’s pledge to properly pay women and care workers is a start, but it won’t be easy

by Sara Charlesworth, RMIT University and Elizabeth Hill, University of Sydney

Aged-care workers are notoriously underpaid for the level of skill, responsibility, and judgement they exercise. Even employers acknowledge it.

The aged care royal commission found low wages, poor conditions, lack of training and poor career pathways to be the principal causes of substandard care.

The Fair Work Commission is now considering a claim by unions to increase award rates in aged care by $5.40 to $7.20 an hour, to an average of $29 an hour.

That will go some way to alleviating the situation. But it won’t fix the deeper problem that has led to rampant underpaying of caring work for decades.

The problem is that heavily-feminised occupations are undervalued.

In residential aged care, 86 per cent of the workers are women.

Labor is promising to do something about the underpayment of heavily-feminised occupations more generally, pledging at its campaign launch to make gender pay equity an objective of the Fair Work Act.

It says it will also set up two new expert panels within the Fair Work Commission backed by research units to advise on equal remuneration cases; one specialising in the care and community sector, and the other specialising in gender pay equity.

Women’s work is undervalued

In a Queensland judgement in 2009, Industrial Relations Commissioner Glenys Fisher said it went back to the “nature of care work being seen as an extension of “women’s work in the home; an inherent part of mothering.

Care work was predominantly performed by women who put notions of vocation and the commitment to service “over and above the industrial needs of the community services workers themselves”.

Women in care industries had been awarded low wages that “would not have been endured” by workers in the electricity and rail industries.

Enterprise bargaining benefits men

Up until the 1990s wages and conditions for most workers were set by industrial awards. Changes to awards were argued by union and employer representatives but decided by state and federal industrial relations commissions.

Breakthroughs, such as minimum standards for the termination of employment and the right to carers’ leave, were achieved through “test cases” whose results flowed through to awards.

But from the early 1990s onwards enterprise bargains became the main way wages and conditions were lifted. Most agreements were hammered out between the unions and employers in each enterprise and approved by the commissions.

So-called modern awards have continued to exist, but have been stripped back to a bare minimum of “safety net” standards. For workers relying on these awards, wages and conditions have stagnated.

Enterprise bargaining helps most the workers with strong unions prepared to take industrial action. Construction workers are an example. Care workers, less keen on threatening industrial action, have been left behind.

Striking aged care workers rally in Perth for better pay and staffing levels on Tuesday, May 10.

This month’s walk out by aged care workers in Queensland and South Australia and Western Australia was unusual.

The Fair Work Commission recognised in 2011 that residential aged care enterprise agreements gained workers little, finding they paid 5-10 per cent above the award, but were often accompanied by conditions that had “an offsetting effect”.

The industry practice of on-call rostering, where even part-time workers get fewer hours and less regular work than they want, means many aged care workers live below the poverty line.

As well, “care industries” such as childcare and aged care are funded by a dominant Federal Government purchaser that funds mainly non-government providers to deliver services on their behalf.

It means even employers who would like to pay their workers more have trouble finding the funds.

Labor’s proposals are a start

Labor’s proposal should give the Fair Work Commission a greater understanding of the distinctive nature of care-sector employment and the importance of awards in providing decent pay and working conditions.

Labor has also promised to fully fund any pay increases awarded by the Commission in the aged care work value case.

Rural Locum Assistance Program a great work/travel opportunity for aged care workers

Aged care workers will now have the opportunity to receive subsidised travel across the country by signing up to do locum work in some of the nation’s most under-resourced rural facilities.

The Rural Locum Assistance Program (Rural LAP), funded by the Australian Government, has just been expanded to include an aged care funding stream, which will allow aged care workers to be compensated for providing surge workforce support in shifts of between 14 and 90 days.

An extension of the existing contract awarded by the Federal Department of Health to Aspen Medical, the program’s primary aims are to ensure that:

  • rural and remote aged care consumers experience continuity of care and clinical leadership;
  • rural and remote aged care providers experiencing high turnover or sudden departures of staff can access a temporary surge workforce while they recruit, and/or attract permanent staff;
  • new staff are available, suitable and well prepared to undertake a locum placement or permanent relocation.

Aged Care News asked Aspen Medical whether they believed there to be enough metropolitan workers available to sustain the program’s demand, but they declined to comment.

But for workers already on the books, locum work has launched the adventure of a lifetime.

Liam Correy, a registered nurse from Hobart, has travelled to more than ten different sites across regional Western Australia, and says the compensation for his travel has allowed him to explore the country to an extent that he never dreamed of being able to achieve.

“Travelling for work can be expensive, especially when I’m living between Tasmania and north-west WA, but to find an organisation that recognises this as a barrier and provides full support for travel to each workplace is a dream come true.

“I remember my first placement was at Yorketown Hospital, South Australia.

“I travelled with my surfboard just in case, and was lucky enough to get some waves on my days off.

“It felt like a real working adventure!”

Liam Correy is a registered nurse from Hobart who got the opportunity to explore Western Australia by working as a locum nurse through the Rural Locum Assistance Program.


Another participant, Lauri Buckingham, says that the ability to travel and meet and network with workers across the country made her appreciate her profession even more.

“One of the great pleasures I also find in this career is that, because it involves working with nurses all over the country, I have repeated experiences of inspiration at meeting so many genuinely lovely people.

“It is endlessly fascinating to discover the great diversity of nursing backgrounds, both privately and professionally.”

As with the original Rural LAP program, there are no additional fees or charges involved, with workers’ travel and accommodation paid for, as well as added incentives such as meal allowances.

Organisations that employ locum aged care workers are only required to pay the locum workers wages, without any added fees for accessing the surge workforce.

The hope is that by providing an accessible supply of workers, providers will be more willing to give their permanent workers the leave they desperately need and deserve.

The program also offers incentives for permanent placements, particularly areas ranging from medium rural towns to very remote communities (MMM categories 4 to 7), to increase staff retention in these chronically under-resourced areas.

Lauri Buckingham (second from left) says that her experience working as a locum gave her the opportunity to network with new colleagues, who inspired her and enriched her own skills as a registered nurse.

Elligibility criteria

Workers in the following roles are eligible to apply for the Rural LAP Aged Care program:

  • Registered and enrolled nurses
  • Personal care workers
  • Residential aged care facility managers 
  • Care coordinators
  • Community support workers
  • Allied health workers

Workers in both the residential aged care and in-home care sectors are encouraged to apply.

If you are interested in applying to be a locum aged care worker, you can follow this link to apply.

The application process will involve providing your personal information and qualifications, which must be validated by a witness: anyone over 18, and it is not necessary to consult with a Justice of the Peace.  

If you are deemed eligible, you will be added to the Rural LAP Aged Care Locum Register, through which you will be considered for hundreds of potential positions.

To find out more about the program and what life is like working as a locum aged care worker, follow this link.

New medicinal cannabis study gives hope to patients suffering chronic pain

New research from pioneer of the Australian medical cannabis market, Little Green Pharma (LGP), is providing promising results for long-suffering patients with chronic pain.

LGP said its national study shows the positive effect of oral medicinal cannabis on chronic refractory pain in patients who have not experienced relief with existing pain medications including opioids, anti-inflammatories, and steroid treatments.

The study included 151 participants with common chronic pain conditions including arthritis, neuropathic pain and other musculoskeletal pain who had tried other pain therapies and failed to see improvement. 

This study is important, as it provides an option for those patients who have not had success with other pain therapies and gives doctors some vital research they’ve been requesting since medicinal cannabis was legalised.

LGP head of research and innovation, and study author, Dr Leon Warne

Patients receiving LGP Classic 10:10 (with a balanced ratio of THC and CBD) were monitored for an average observational period of 133 days. 

The observational, open-label study found almost half of all patients benefitted from oral medicinal cannabis.

Almost half (47.9 per cent) of patients reported a statistically significant improvement in pain impact scores, suggesting an improvement in their quality of life, which LGP says is ultimately what matters to patients affected by chronic pain. 

The majority of patients also reported meaningful improvements in sleep (49.3 per cent) and fatigue (35.6 per cent), two common problems for those with chronic pain.

“LGP is extremely pleased with these results that show the Classic 10:10 formulation has been scientifically validated and demonstrated a significantly positive effect on the impact of chronic refractory pain,” LGP head of research and innovation, and study author, Dr Leon Warne said.

“This study is important, as it provides an option for those patients who have not had success with other pain therapies and gives doctors some vital research they’ve been requesting since medicinal cannabis was legalised.”

I wasn’t able to control my intense nerve pain with prescription medication and had to give up working full time and the hobbies that I loved. Since taking medicinal cannabis my life has changed. I am able to walk and stand for long periods of time, I can exercise and enjoy my art and craft. I have my life back.

Fibromyalgia patient taking LGP Classic 10:10, Jenni Garland (NSW)

The study also assessed the safety, tolerability, and self-reported effectiveness of the pharmaceutical-grade cannabis product (Classic 10:10) in relieving pain and other symptoms in adult patients diagnosed with chronic pain resistant to other treatments.

The severity analysis revealed the majority of adverse events (AEs) reported were mild.

Somnolence (sleepiness) and dry mouth/throat were the most common AEs experienced and no severe adverse effects were reported within the observational period for this cohort of patients.

This proportion of AEs is consistent with existing studies of registered medicinal cannabis products 3,4 and analgesics 5.

The research was conducted nationally within the independent network of CA Clinics.

Findings from this clinical study were published in February 2022 in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids.

Chronic pain affects can negatively impact a person’s quality of life including their sleep patterns, social engagement, as well as their ability to work and conduct daily activities.

Studies such as this, led by researchers using quality, Australian-made medicinal cannabis, is what we want to continue to see to increase confidence amongst GPs in prescribing medicinal cannabis.

Medical advisor at LGP, Dr Joe Kosterich

It can also cause emotional distress and lead to serious mental health problems including depression.

Patients undertaking the study were prescribed LGP Classic 10:10 medicinal cannabis oil.

Dr Joe Kosterich (MBBS), medical advisor at LGP, said this type of research is hugely encouraging for those seeking alternatives for pain relief.

“Studies such as this, led by researchers using quality, Australian-made medicinal cannabis, is what we want to continue to see to increase confidence amongst GPs in prescribing medicinal cannabis,” he said.

Dr Mark Hardy M.B.,B.S., FRACGP, FAChAM (RACP), from CA Clinics, said the research demonstrates the real-world impact of medicinal cannabis.

“In the study, patient-reported pain impact scores were significantly reduced across the entire patient group, and the majority of patients saw meaningful improvements in sleep and fatigue, which is impactful given the difficult, unmanageable nature of their pain.

“This underscores the importance of ensuring that patients have access to affordable, reliable and quality medicinal cannabis.”

Justin James, CEO of not-for-profit private health insurer HIF, said his company and Little Green Pharma had partnered to make medication costs more manageable for medical cannabis patients.

“Since medicinal cannabis was legalised more than 400,000 scripts have been written for patients by 715 authorised practitioners,” he said.

“HIF was very proud to be the first major private health insurer to publicly declare support for medicinal cannabis and one of the first to offer rebates for treatments under our Extras policies.

“This study reinforces the importance of alternative treatments for helping to ease chronic pain and the benefits of ongoing research into the efficacy of medicinal cannabis.”

About chronic pain

About one in five Australians suffer from chronic pain.

Pain is regarded as chronic when it does not go away and is experienced by a patient on most days of the week for at least three months.

A slightly higher proportion of females’ report having chronic pain than males do.

Almost two-thirds of people with chronic pain report that their pain interferes with their daily activities.

Australians suffering chronic pain are estimated to increase from 3.24 million in 2018 to 5.23 million people by 2050.

Labor has a huge health agenda ahead of it. What policies should we expect?

By Stephen Duckett, The University of Melbourne

Labor’s win in Saturday’s election heralds real change in health policy. Although Labor had a small-target strategy, with limited big spending commitments, its victory represents a value shift to a party committed to equity and Medicare, and, potentially, a style shift to a hands-on, equity-oriented health minister.

Labor’s shadow health minister, Mark Butler, is expected to be the new health minister, subject to a reshuffle caused by two Labor shadow ministers losing their seats.

Butler is very different from his predecessor. He was Australia’s first minister for mental health and ageing in the Gillard Government. He also held the equity-focused ministries of housing, homelessness, and social inclusion. He has written a book about ageing in Australia, published by Melbourne University Press.

The new minister faces two urgent policy priorities: primary care and COVID.

Fixing primary care

Outgoing health minister Greg Hunt released an unfunded strategy paper on budget night. It aimed to improve primary care – a person’s first point of contact with the health system, usually their GP or practice nurses. The paper had languished on his desk for months and was the result of years of consultation and consensus-building.

One of the largest and most important Labor commitments during the campaign was almost $1 billion over four years for primary care reform, about $250 million in a full year.

The funding commitment is cast broadly, promising to improve patient access to GP-led multidisciplinary team care, including nursing and allied health and after-hours care; greater patient affordability; and better management of complex and chronic conditions.

Presumably, a key way this will be effected will be through voluntary patient enrolment. A patient would enrol with a practice, and the practice would get an annual payment for that enrolment. This was promised for people over 70 in the 2019–20 budget but not delivered.

This new policy is a welcome start for reform in primary care and signals the importance that a Labor government attaches to the sector.

Former shadow health minister, Mark Butler, is expected to be the new health minister. He was minister for mental health and ageing in the Gillard Government and is very different from his predecessor, Greg Hunt.

The Strengthening Medicare Fund was only sketched out in broad terms before the election, and provides insight into the new ministerial style. The details of the policy will be thrashed out in a taskforce which will include key stakeholders. Most importantly, the taskforce will be chaired by the minister – no hiding behind consultants; he or she will hold the hose.

Reducing COVID deaths

Another crucial early challenge for the minister will be addressing the continuing COVID pandemic.

COVID deaths continue: three times as many people have died this year than in the previous two. The coalition delegitimised any form of action, including mask wearing and vaccine mandates, as part of its undermining of state public health measures, especially action by Labor states.

The prevalence of third dose vaccinations, necessary for adequate protection from Omicron, sits at about two-thirds of the over-16 population, much lower in the under-16s, meaning that many in the population are not protected.

Public hospitals are bursting at the seams, with staff overwhelmed. This needs urgent attention, and the Coalition strategy of ignoring it and saying it was someone else’s problem, must be dumped. Labor vowed to “step up the national strategy” late in the election campaign.

Aged care support

Hopefully Labor’s shadow aged care minister, Clare O’Neil, will continue in this role post-election. She proved more than a match for her hapless opponent, Richard Colbeck.

Clare O’Neil, abover right, has been shadow minister for aged care up until now and is considered connected with those in the sector.

Labor made big commitments in aged care, creating a significant point of difference with the Coalition, despite the Coalition’s investments in the 2021–22 budget.

In addition to the Coalition commitments, Labor promised 24/7 registered nurse coverage in residential aged care facilities, and to support a wage rise for aged care workers. The latter is particularly important because without a wages uplift, the staff shortages in the sector will continue.

A new approach

Labor won’t engage in climate denialism or use climate policy as a political wedge.

Recognising and addressing climate change is an important issue for the health sector and, of course, the community more broadly as the teal surge and the Greens’ wins demonstrated.

Labor has committed to establishing a centre for prevention and disease control, which should provide a framework for addressing social and economic determinants of health.

Potentially as important in terms of policy style are Labor’s public service policies. The “consultocracy” which thrived under the Liberals will be shown the door, replaced by public servants doing the job the public service has always been available to do.

Obviously, a new Labor government will not be able to be meet all the community’s pent-up aspirations in a single term.

Nevertheless, it is disappointing Labor did not commit to phasing in universal dental care – the crucial missing piece of Australia’s universal health coverage.

Butler and his colleagues have a huge agenda on their plates. Starting with primary care is a good first focus, as without those foundations in place, the whole system cannot work well.

Sector welcomes Albanese Government while urging swift aged care action

A range of aged care stakeholder organisations and unions have congratulated new prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) on Saturday night’s federal election victory, hoping the new Government will be swift and committed in addressing many of the most pressing of issues in the sector.

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said it and its membership of more than 310,000 nurses, midwives, care workers and students are confident the new Albanese Government will deliver much-needed reforms for health, aged care, better wages for low-paid workers, gender equality and action on climate change.

Mr Albanese and his team, including Mark Butler and Clare O’Neil, have already listened to the ANMF and have committed to working with us to develop a health workforce which is ready and able to respond to Australia’s health needs.

ANMF federal secretary, Annie Butler

“We are delighted that we finally have a Federal Government that has a real plan to fix the systemic issues in health and aged care,” ANMF federal secretary, Annie Butler, said yesterday.

“Mr Albanese and his team, including Mark Butler and Clare O’Neil, have already listened to the ANMF and have committed to working with us to develop a health workforce which is ready and able to respond to Australia’s health needs.

“In aged care, the ALP has committed to funding legislating mandated staffing ratios in private aged care facilities, improving wages for the depleted workforce and making sure taxpayer-funds for providers are tied to direct care for residents.

“On behalf of our members across the country, the ANMF congratulates Mr Albanese and his team on winning government and we look forward to working with them in developing and delivering real solutions which can ensure fair and equitable outcomes in health and aged care for all Australians.”

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) wants addressing the crisis facing the nursing workforce to be at the top of the new Government’s post-election priority list.

“I congratulate the ALP on their election victory and look forward to working with new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Health Minister Mark Butler,” ACN CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said.

Throughout the election campaign, all sides of politics acknowledged the importance of investing in a sustainable nursing workforce to ensure all Australians receive expert nursing care for generations to come. The next few months provide a unique opportunity for those promises to be backed up with tangible action.

ACN CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward

“Throughout the election campaign, all sides of politics acknowledged the importance of investing in a sustainable nursing workforce to ensure all Australians receive expert nursing care for generations to come.

“The next few months provide a unique opportunity for those promises to be backed up with tangible action.”

Ward highlighted a multi-pronged approach is required to address workforce shortages and ensuring the new Government’s pledge to have registered nurses 24/7 in residential aged care facilities is met.

“As I said at the time, I welcome the ALP’s positive intent to support the health of our vulnerable elderly population by ensuring they have access to highly-trained nurses,” she said.

“However, action is required on multiple fronts to ensure Australia’s largest health profession continues to shape the health of all Australians for generations to come.

“The solutions ACN advocates for are based on the experience and expertise of our members and nurses we represent nationally.”

“They include improving access to transition pathways after graduation, visas for internationally trained nurses, greater health and wellbeing support, refresher courses for enrolled and registered nurses and ensuring nurses can access MBS item numbers.

“I re-iterate my calls for the incoming Government to hold a national summit to develop an action plan to ensure these solutions are implemented.”

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe said she is looking forward to working with the newly elected Albanese Government to ensure quality dementia care will be placed at the top of the agenda for the ongoing systemic aged care reforms in the 47th parliament.

“We welcome the Labor Party’s commitment to put more nurses in residential care and give aged care workers more time to care for residents,” McCabe said.

We look forward to working with the Government on all Labor policies relevant to people impacted by dementia through the health, aged care, disability and social services sectors

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe

“And we acknowledge the party’s promise to formally support a pay rise for aged care workers.

“We look forward to working with the Government on all Labor policies relevant to people impacted by dementia through the health, aged care, disability and social services sectors.”

It has been 15 months since the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was handed down, which stated ‘dementia care should be core business for aged care services, and particularly residential aged care services .’

“Quality dementia care must be top of the agenda for every plan, framework, strategy and review of the aged care system reform process including residential and home and community care,” McCabe said.

“With the Government’s support we hope to see a commitment to quality dementia care from Boards, directors and governance committees across the aged care, disability and health care sectors.”

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) has also congratulated Albanese and the Labor Party on its win and is urging the new government to urgently prioritise addressing the workforce crisis in health and aged care.

There is always a long list of pressing issues that confront any incoming government, but delivering quality compassionate care to our elderly must be right at the top. CHA stands ready to work with an Albanese Government to deliver on its pledge for more and better skilled and better paid aged care workers.

Catholic Health Australia CEO, Pat Garcia

A new CHA study released last week puts the number of vacancies in aged care alone at almost 60,000.

CHA is also urging an Albanese Government to embark on reforms to the health insurance sector including making it easier for patients to receive hospital treatment at home without losing out financially.

Its members also want to see a greater commitment by the Commonwealth to palliative care so that those nearing end of life have a genuine choice now that assisted dying laws are present in every state.

CHA is also restating its call for government assistance for aged care homes to help defray the extra costs of COVID infection prevention which are not reimbursed by the Commonwealth unless there is an outbreak.

“Our members congratulate Anthony Albanese on his election and thank the Coalition government and Scott Morrison for their public service,” CHA CEO Pat Garcia said.

“There is always a long list of pressing issues that confront any incoming government, but delivering quality compassionate care to our elderly must be right at the top.

“Our Fight for Better Aged campaign has helped put and keep aged care on the election map over recent weeks, and we are heartened by the new Government’s renewed focus on aged care.

“CHA stands ready to work with an Albanese Government to deliver on its pledge for more and better skilled and better paid aged care workers.”

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration wants the new prime minister to nominate reform of the COVID-ravaged sector as a priority for his first 100 days in office.

The peak collective said its concerns should also feature in any crossbench negotiations in coming days and weeks.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) national president, Associate Professor Chris Freeman, welcomed Labor’s election victory.

“I congratulate, what looks to be an incoming Labor majority Government, on their success at the election,” he said.

I am pleased that the ALP has already acknowledged the central role that pharmacists play in medication management in residential aged care facilities, and their commitment to implement the 2022-23 Budget measure to improve medicine safety by funding onsite aged care pharmacists.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia national president, Assoc Prof Chris Freeman

“PSA has always enjoyed a strong and productive working relationship with the ALP’s health team and is delighted to see pharmacist Emma McBride retain the marginal seat of Dobell.

“We look forward to working with Mark Butler as the new Health Minister, to continue to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians.

“Now is the time to ensure that access to health care remains universal, particularly for the most vulnerable of our population.

“Consumers need subsidised access to care – regardless of the health setting or health professional they choose to seek care from.

Freeman is looking forward to hearing from the new Government regarding onsite aged care pharmacists.

“I am pleased that the Australian Labor Party has already acknowledged the central role that pharmacists play in medication management in residential aged care facilities, and their commitment to implement the 2022-23 Budget measure to improve medicine safety by funding onsite aged care pharmacists,” he said.

“It is absolutely critical that the incoming government ensure that this model is collaborative, and that implementation allows flexibility for aged care service providers to determine how to secure pharmacist services.

“This is the only way to guarantee the best outcomes for aged care residents.

“PSA looks forward to working with the incoming ALP Health team on implementation of this commitment, which will also provide exciting new career opportunities for Australian pharmacists.”

The PSA is also keen on the new Federal Governmane ensuring fair access to influenza vaccines.

“Consumers still face out of pocket expenses for the administration of the influenza vaccination under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) if delivered by their pharmacists, whilst this same service is subsidised if done at a general practice,” Freeman said.

“Given that pharmacies are one of our most accessible healthcare professionals, it is unacceptable for a consumer to be deprived of this subsidy when choosing to visit a pharmacist.

“The Australian Labor Party has committed to working with PSA and other stakeholders to address this inequity in healthcare access.”

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has also moved to enlist Labor’s support for the role community chemists have played in the pandemic response.

Acting national president Nick Panayiaris said pharmacists can contribute more to Australia’s vaccination rollout and alleviate pressure on the health system.

“We need to see pharmacists working to their full scope of practice,” he said.

“At present they are under-utilised and by allowing them to provide the full range of services they are trained for will help ease pressure on doctors, hospitals and emergency departments while keeping communities healthier.”

The early round of lobbying comes amid more than 38,000 new infections recorded across Australia on Sunday along with 20 virus-related deaths.

Almost 2800 patients are under hospital care around the country, with more than one hundred in intensive care.

Of nearly 380,000 active coronavirus cases Australia-wide, almost 80 per cent are in NSW (133,000), Western Australia (91,000) and Victoria (75,000).

Aged care and disability services marketplace Mable’s CEO Peter Scutt said he looks forward to working collaboratively to revolutionise the care and support sectors founded on recognising a human rights-focused approach to service delivery and consumer choice and control.

Now is the time to recast the model of aged care at home grounded in recognising the capacity of older people to make decisions about their lives and support needs. The current centralised, highly regulated, and provider-led aged home care solution has, in many cases, not only failed to keep people safe but failed to deliver the quality of life we would imagine for ourselves as we age.

Mable CEO, Peter Scutt

“Mable supports Mr Albanese’s desire to bring people together, to collaborate and find common ground, and his focus on fairness and opportunity in building a better future for all Australians,” Scutt said.

“Nowhere is this approach more needed than in aged care and disability support, where there is an opportunity to ‘reimagine’ home care and disability support services by putting people at the centre, including critically the people who play an essential role every day providing care and support to others in communities around Australia.

Scutt said the Disability Royal Commission and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety have given the nation a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine care and support 500,000 NDIS participants and for everyone who lives to see their senior years.

“Now is the time to recast the model of aged care at home grounded in recognising the capacity of older people to make decisions about their lives and support needs,” he said.

“The current centralised, highly regulated, and provider-led aged home care solution has, in many cases, not only failed to keep people safe but failed to deliver the quality of life we would imagine for ourselves as we age.

“It’s also failed to deliver high-quality outcomes for care and support workers.”

Quality dementia care must be an ongoing priority for the upcoming 47th parliament

As the federal election ticks down, Australians impacted by dementia are calling on all candidates to pledge that providing quality dementia care will be placed firmly at the top of the agenda for the ongoing systemic aged care reforms in the 47th parliament.

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe said it is three-and-a-half years since the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was called and 15 months since the final report was handed to Government.

“This final report stated, ‘dementia care should be core business for aged care services, and particularly residential aged care services’,” McCabe said.

“Delivering quality dementia care isn’t yet core business across our aged care system and, without question, it needs to be.

It’s not just Government that needs to implement change — we need to see a commitment to quality dementia care from boards, directors and governance committees across the aged care, disability and health care sectors by addressing dementia as an ongoing priority.

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe

“We know 70 per cent of the almost half a million Australians with dementia are living in the community and 70 per cent of residential aged care residents have moderate to severe cognitive impairment.

“With this prevalence, quality dementia care must be top of the agenda for every plan, framework, strategy and review of the aged care system reform process including residential and home and community care.

McCabe said while there has been significant investment and many aged care reforms are underway, there is still much to be done to fulfil the recommendations of the royal commission.

“People impacted by dementia need the reforms to start making a difference now,” she said.

“It’s not just Government that needs to implement change — we need to see a commitment to quality dementia care from boards, directors and governance committees across the aged care, disability and health care sectors by addressing dementia as an ongoing priority.”

In the lead up to the federal budget and throughout the election campaign the messages from people of all ages impacted by dementia have been loud and clear.

Through events, speeches, meetings, networking, letters, emails, e-newsletters, phone and video calls, video messages, media releases, social media and in the media all candidates have been called on to commit to implementing compulsory dementia training for the aged care workforce, a national dementia palliative care program and renewed funding of the Dementia-Friendly Communities program.

Three Dementia Advocates have shared their reasons why these issues are so important to them in video messages:

“If only the staff at my mother’s aged care facility were properly trained, I could have spent more time engaging in rewarding experiences with my mum such as walking or gardening and less time responding to behavioural challenges,” Isabelle Burke, 27, says.

“Caring for a person with dementia brings unique strains, stresses and challenges; emotional, physical and often financial that aren’t always obvious to those who have not had a lived experience of dementia and dementia caring in their households,” Vern Marshall says.

“This program has changed my life and tens of thousands of other Australians. It has given me hope,” John Quinn, who is living with dementia, says about the Dementia-Friendly Communities Program.

“Dementia Australia will work with the elected government and all sector leaders to ensure the aged care system reforms deliver quality dementia care,” McCabe said.

CHA calls for urgent reform as new data reveals 82,156 aged care and hospital vacancies

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) is calling on the new Federal Minister for Health post-election to introduce urgent and high-impact reforms to fill 82,156 hospital and aged care vacancies, after a new study revealed the startling detail of the national health staffing crisis for the first time.

The new research, conducted by Evaluate and the University of Notre Dame and commissioned by CHA, reveals there are 23,089 vacancies in hospitals and 59,067 in aged care.

The research was conducted by drawing on survey data from Catholic health providers across Australia and extrapolating figures for the entire Australian health system.

Among the findings, there are:

  • 12,065 registered nurse vacancies in Australian hospitals
  • 1454 midwife vacancies in Australian hospitals
  • 3891 support staff vacancies in Australian hospitals
  • 45,561 qualified aged care worker vacancies in the aged care system
  • 1760 registered nurse vacancies in the aged care system

“I think Australians know there is a shortage of health workers in our system, but I don’t think many understand just how enormous this problem has grown,” CHA chief executive Pat Garcia said.

“The researchers in this study were actually conservative in their modelling, so there’s a chance the real numbers are even higher than these startling figures.

“Our hospitals and aged care providers just cannot go on with this acute understaffing.

“The situation right now is totally unsustainable.

“If these numbers don’t shock the new federal health minister, I don’t know what will.”

Garcia called on the incoming health minister to urgently champion a range of reforms to help alleviate the crisis.

“We need to expedite the process for healthcare workers to get into Australia and get them to work.

“There’s currently far too much red tape and it’s putting people off,” Garcia said.

“In a competitive global market we also need to think about incentives like organising housing, school placements, and childcare for newly arrived health workers and their families — anything to make their lives easier and lessen the burden of moving here.

Garcia said that visa and registration costs need to be removed for both health workers and their families.

“And we must offer a solid and certain path to residency — the importance of this factor cannot be overstated,” he said.

“We also need the Government to ensure and make affordable flexible, out of hours childcare options for healthcare workers.

“We have put a range of suggested childcare reforms on the table for the Government, but what is clear is that reform is now urgent.

Garcia continued that reforming nurse training practices needs to be looked into, to get nurses into hospitals and aged care facilities sooner.

“Obviously we also need to fund and incentivise more university and TAFE places, but this pipeline will take time and we need reform that will deliver results sooner as well.”

Pre-election strike action an insight into level of ‘anger and frustration’ of workers

On the eve of the election, strike action continues as aged care workers from Queensland’s Blue Care and Churches of Christ residential aged facilities are walking off the job today, intensifying pressure on the political parties to enact reforms post-election.  

Carolyn Smith, United Workers Union aged care director, says that the current action is inspired by the current government’s lagging action on vital reforms.

“The anger and frustration workers are experiencing is because they feel they and their residents have been completely failed by Scott Morrison and the Federal Government.

“It’s crickets on aged care from Scott Morrison and his incompetent Aged Care Services Minister, Richard Colbeck.”

Smith says that across the current Government’s term, workers’ list of grievances has only grown longer.

“Aged care workers were failed in the vaccination program, they were failed with boosters, they were failed with availability of PPE and RATs, many have been dudded on bonus payments and they were failed again when Omicron ripped through and killed more than 1400 aged care residents this year.

“When you lay it all end to end, it’s a tale of neglect, incompetence and a profound failure to adequately care for Australia’s most vulnerable people.”

United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith says the anger and frustration workers are experiencing is because they feel they and their residents have been completely failed by Scott Morrison and the Federal Government.

With the Omicron variant still permeating aged care facilities across the country, and most recent figures signalling that 60 aged care residents are dying from the virus every week, workers are feeling heartbroken and powerless.

“More than 350 aged care residents have died of COVID since the Federal election campaign was called, and yet it’s not an aged care crisis for Scott Morrison — he’s too busy putting on silly hats,” Smith says.

“There is real anger about what has happened in aged care, and that anger is rightly directed at Scott Morrison’s failures.

Aged care workers, not surprisingly, will be preferencing the Australian Labor Party (ALP) at the ballot box.

“Labor has put up a plan that promises to materially address the crisis in aged care,” Smith says.

In an analysis from the Australian Aged Care Collaboration, the ALP was rated as providing the most comprehensive aged care policy package, which includes mandated 24/7 nursing and mandated minimum care time of 215 minutes in RACF, and support for worker pay-rises.

Smith said the workers would continue taking strike action to hold their employers accountable for better pay and more time to care.

“They need more staff so they can provide the quality care they want to provide and they need better wages so they can stay in the industry that they love.

“They are not stopping until they change aged care.”

Today’s action comes as workers from Anglicare SA undertook long-awaited strike action yesterday, after a delay to their planned coordination with the national strike action that took place last week.

AnglicareSA CEO Grant Reubenich tells Aged Care News that earlier strike action was untenable due to the risk of compromising resident health and safety.

However, he adds that his organisation is supportive of workers’ demands for higher pay.

“AnglicareSA will continue to advocate for long overdue Federal Government-funded wage and workforce reform for our aged care sector, currently being heard in the Fair Work Commission’s work value case.”

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