Australia’s nurses’ union says a $17.7 billion Budget boost still falls short of fixing the aged care system, lacking the staffing requirements for quality care.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said the increase in regulated care hours to 200 minutes was “a step in the right direction” but said the implementation was too late.
Yesterday Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a multibillion-dollar increase in funding to the sector – rising more than 20 per cent in real terms by 2024-2025.
This included 80,000 more home care packages, an extension of the additional $10 per resident daily fee boost, strengthened regulatory provisions including a new aged care act and an oversight agency, and more respite services for carers of people with dementia.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the 200-minute care rule should be required from July next year in line with the royal commission recommendations, along with an on-call nurse.
Before the Budget announcement, the union pointed to research showing an average nursing home resident received two hours 50 minutes (170 minutes) of care per day.
“We’ve always said, if you don’t fix staffing, you can’t fix aged care system,” she said last night.
“Without mandated minimum staffing levels and skills mix guaranteed to meet the care needs of residents, elderly Australians and their families will continue to suffer.”
She said new public disclosure rules for care minutes was a “positive step” as well as the new laws around aged care.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), which represents more than 1,000 providers, congratulated the government on addressing many of the challenges in aged care, notably workforce concerns and home care waitlists.
AACC representative Sean Rooney said the industry would work with the government to implement the “demanding timetable of reform”.
“What this means is we are on the pathway to realising a transformed aged care system, that is resourced and enabled to meet the needs of a growing number of older Australians,” he said.
National Seniors Australia welcomed the additional home care packages and the care requirements in residential care but called for more in-home services.
National Seniors Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke said it was “a good start” but the work was not yet done.
“Once again it’s the people needing the highest level of home care who are missing out with six thousand extra Level 4 packages next financial year, and a further six thousand the following year,” he said.
Chris Mamarelis, CEO at Whiddon who operate aged care facilities in regional NSW and Southern Queensland said, “The budget represents a comprehensive response to the Royal Commission and it’s pleasing to see that older Australians and people working in aged care are finally being made a priority. As an organisation and an industry that has been under such immense pressure, financially, operationally and emotionally, this provides us with some much needed relief so that we can refocus on what really matters – our residents, clients and our people. Longer-term sustainability is now dependant on the effectiveness of the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model and the governance structures that will be implemented to guide the sector over the coming years”.
PwC Australia Healthcare Partner Richard Ainley said the sector now needed to deliver the reform agenda, supported by the investments.
He said the labour shortages and increasing demand for home care services would continue to be a challenge.
“While the powerhouse of the federal government’s reform agenda for aged care is a skilled, professional and compassionate aged care workforce, staffing will remain a fundamental issue for providers, particularly as minimum front-line carer minutes are introduced, and skilled migration remains suspended,” he said.
Mr Ainley also pointed to the allocation of the licence from providers to consumers as a “transformational change” to residential aged care that would emphasise consumer choice.
“[The] introduction of minimum care delivery commitments, including nursing, could improve care and experiences but will challenge providers to rethink current operating models and look to digital solutions to streamline and improve care delivery while competition for workforce intensifies.”