An Aged Care Amendment Bill was presented in Federal Parliament on 7th September 2017. Federal Senator Derryn Hinch introduced the aged care amendment bill. According to him, the aim is to ensure quality care is provided to residents in nursing homes across Australia. Moreover, he emphasises the ratio of skilled staff to care recipients as a key measure of the quality of service.
Hinch emphasises the ratio of skilled staff to care recipients as a key measure of the quality of service
Presently, that ratio is described in the Aged Care Act 1997 1 Paragraph 54-1(1)(b). However, Hinch claims it is only an adequate and safe ratio if it meets certain provisos. For instance, aged care provided by an approved provider, at a particular time, is highlighted as needing more clarity. Moreover, the ratio of appropriately skilled staff to care recipients must be equal to, or greater than, the minimum ratio required by the Quality of Care Principles. These Care Principles are:
- the number of care recipients receiving care through the aged care service at that time; and
- the type of care and level of care provided
In plain english, that means Hinch wants higher carer to residents ratios. Further, he appears to want for that ratio to be specified more clearly in the law.
Details of the proposed amendment
Hinch’s proposed amendments to the Aged Care Act 1997 concern Paragraph 54-1(1)(b). He wants to repeal a paragraph and substitute it with:
- (b) to maintain an adequate and safe ratio of appropriately skilled staff to care recipients, to ensure that the care needs of care recipients are met.
Also, Hinch wants to add text so that the Quality of Care Principles must set out Staff to Care Recipient Ratio Standards. These are standards for quality of care and quality of life for the provision of aged care. Importantly, they must set out a minimum ratio of appropriately skilled staff to care recipients required to provide care at an aged care service at a particular time taking into account:
- the number of recipients receiving care at that time; and Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients) Bill 3 2017 1 2
- the type of care provided; and the level of care provided
Again, Phew! It”s all a bit legalese but the idea appears to be ‘more carers per resident’. Plus, that ratio should increase depending on the level of care the resident needs.
Senator Derryn Hinch’s claims this reflects a growing concern over care levels given
There have been growing concerns about staffing levels within aged care homes. In particular the lack of prescribed minimum staffing standards. Senator Hinch says “Elderly Australians have contributed valiantly to society, and throughout their lives have helped make Australia the great country it is. Unfortunately, many of these Australians who have given so much to our society are highly vulnerable, and are not currently guaranteed the standard of care they deserve.”
Elderly Australians have contributed valiantly to society
Sen Hinch also made reference to international research to back his claims. In fact, he suggests that high registered nurse staffing levels are associated with better quality care. In particular, he supports a higher ratio of registered nurses to other nursing staff. Further, he added that his proposed amendment seeks to enhance the level of service provided by aged care facilities in Australia.
According to him there has been a declining share of registered nurses over the last decade or more. “This Bill introduces the concept of a mandated ratio of skilled staff to care recipients in Australia’s aged care residential facilities. The task of calculating a safe and specific ratio, including providing for variables such as day and night shifts, higher and lower care residents, and for metropolitan, rural and regional areas, should be undertaken by the Department of Health in consultation with the aged care sector, and included in the quality of Care Principles.
“The passage of this Bill would be an important step in moving towards an aged care system that is more focussed on the protection of the elderly than on profit margins of aged care facilities.”
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) response
You may also be interested to read the response of The Federal Secretary for the ANMF, Lee Thomas, to the new aged care bill presented by Senator. Derryn Hinch.
Click this link to read the full Aged Care Amendment Bill.