A senior care advocate wants the federal government to support facilities in rural and remote areas to have registered nurses, rather than giving them an exemption from the requirement.
- Proposed elder care reforms would mean registered nurses would have to be in elder care facilities at all times
- Rural aged care facilities want more information on how exemptions will be applied
- Many rural structures have difficulty recruiting staff
Labour’s aged care reforms include the requirement that there be a registered nurse (RN) on site at all times in aged care facilities, but there will be exemptions for rural facilities that do not can’t find staff.
Academic Maree Bernoth of Charles Sturt University acknowledged regional labor shortages but said the government was taking an “easy” option.
“Our elderly people in rural areas deserve the same standards of care as anywhere else,” Dr Bernoth said.
“We should not be looking for a lower standard or lower qualification of people working with our rural older people than is available in metropolitan areas.”
A Senate committee is reviewing the bill for 24/7 Registered Nursing in Elder Care and will report at the end of August.
Paul Sadler of the Aged and Community Care Association said exemptions were needed, especially for facilities in rural and regional areas.
“In particular, we don’t want the process of mandating the presence of a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to ultimately mean that small retirement homes in country towns have to close because ‘They don’t,’ Mr Sadler said. said.
AIs “like hen’s teeth”
In Hillston, South West New South Wales, the community-run aged care facility has first-hand experience of the challenges of recruiting a registered nurse.
Board member John McKeon said the 18-bed facility’s first registered nurse was hired last year, but finding her a place to live was also a problem.
“It’s very difficult to find housing for people, especially people from out of town,” McKeon said.
“The manager we have now has to live in a trailer park, which is far from satisfactory.
“It’s almost double the cost to have a nurse on your staff as it’s a standard care worker, if we need to have more than one nurse it will cost a lot more and we would struggle without government assistance.
It’s a similar story in Coleambally, also in southern New South Wales, where the non-profit nursing home provides 18 beds for full-time residents and one for respite care.
Manager Karen Hodgson said she was lucky to have two part-time registered nurses.
“Registered nurses are like chicken teeth, they’re just not there, they’re definitely not in our community, but they’re not even part of the community at large,” she said. declared.
Concern for the future
Ms Hodgson said there had been no details on how the proposed exemptions to the aged care reforms would be implemented.
“We just want to continue to provide the great care that we’re providing, but I’m worried about these 19 people; what’s going to happen to them,” she said.
“We are running here so the elderly in our community can stay here, so they don’t have to go to the nearest town, which is 50 minutes away… My concern is where are they going- them if we close our doors?”
Dr Bernoth said long-term strategies were needed to tackle the underlying problem of labor shortages.
“In our smaller centers, we have to think about reliability and certainty of employment, accommodation once they’re there, and a career path for them,” Dr Bernoth said.
“I would suggest that we think about another model… where a team of registered nurses might be able to travel to a number of smaller facilities.”
The Department of Health and Aged Care says it will consult with unions and experts to see what registered nurse exemptions are needed.
He says he also intends to strengthen the nursing workforce, including additional university training places, and to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an increase in pay for older workers.
There are also plans to increase the supply of registered nurses through the Pacific Australia Labor Mobility Scheme, he added.