Aged Care in Focus

Aged Care Staffing Levels

I applaud Senator Hinch for calling for amendments to the Aged Care Act to legislate for minimum staffing levels

For some time now, there have been thoughts of setting minimum staffing levels for aged care facilities. Successive Governments have resisted introducing mandatory minimum staffing for fear of industry backlash and calls for increases in subsidy rates.

But in the wake of increasing media and public scrutiny of aged care outcomes and service delivery models, is the time right for the Government to move ?

The current legislation calls for approved providers to ensure they have sufficient number of staff with the appropriate skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the care recipients. So why isn’t this enough to ensure that providers have sufficient numbers and the appropriate skills in place. And what difference will having minimum numbers of staff achieve.

This discussion has to be primarily about Skills and Knowledge and Culture. Addressing raw numbers is only part of the equation, and any move to mandate staffing must include a review of skill levels required to work in the health and aged care sector, particularly for the largest component of the labour force the personal care staff.

This is a vastly complex issue. It is not a simple allocation of fixed numbers of staff based around a fixed number of residents. This is an opportunity to discuss ‘Aged Care’ as an element of the primary health care model and consider the roles and functions of registered and enrolled nurses, the emerging roles of nurse practitioners and the legislation governing practices.

It is an opportunity to introduce a single national training curriculum for personal care staff, with minimum entry criteria and ( dare I suggest ) an apprenticeship style of training model that can capture and offer school leavers a formal career pathway.

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