Staffing ratio in Australia's aged care

A group of Australian healthcare workers is lobbying for mandatory staffing ratios for aged care and calling for the immediate enactment of the law. The group is also calling for the maximisation of funds to avoid any out-of-pocket charges. The proposal posits that the aged care industry must adhere to mandated minimum ratios of skilled staff to take care of the elderly, a similar provision currently adhered to in the child care industry.

Just as child care is demanding, they believe that aged care needs the same attention. Therefore, groups of health care professionals and community supporters have gathered together to lobby for a law on aged care staffing ratio.

Onset of Proposal
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) advocate the passing of staffing ratio as a law. ANMF has been very vocal that the government has ignored the aged care system for far too long. They gathered reports on severe understaffing and under-regulation of aged care facilities which affects the quality of care that the elderly patients receive. Nurses and care staff also report struggling with stress due to lack of mandatory ratios.

They say putting a minimum number of hours and assigned patients will give staff adequate resources to help elderly patients and help reduce stress. Furthermore, increased job opportunities for local nursing and midwifery graduates will also open upon implementation. Moreover, it will be cost-effective for the government as they will no longer need to outsource care services to private providers.

Aged Care Status Quo
The current ratio in aged care facilities can vary greatly. Aged Care Crisis (ACC) said that they are shocked knowing how the Aged Care Act 1997 has little to say about staffing and no information on minimum aged care staff or resident ratios.

ANMF reports that aged care residents are only receiving 2.86 hours of care per day from nurses and staff which is not enough time to care, feed, medicate, let alone have quality time and conversations with them  This highlights severe understaffing as aged care residents should be receiving at least of 4 hours and 18 minutes of care per day, highlighting the need for more nursing and care staff.

Hurdles in Implementation
The frontline of health professionals believe healthcare should be evidence-based and cost-effective so that they can achieve best care delivery. The government and some groups claim that staffing ratios are too prescriptive. They contend that it may cut incentives for providers to invest in new models of care, and adopt new technologies. Thus, they argue that it is not necessary and immediate, and that the focus should be on improving the existing methods.

While there can be many ways to provide for aged care residents, it’s important that providers and the government recognise that all these efforts should benefit not only the welfare of the elderly but also their carers.