Among the promises in the Andrews Labor Government’s Budget this week was a $40 million promise to fund minimum staff-to-resident ratios in the state’s For Profit and Not For Profit aged care homes – but only if the Federal Government also put in funding.
Under the plan, the Victorian Government says it would cover the clinical student training placement costs for thousands of extra registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers.
The Diploma of Nursing and Cert III in Individual Support and Cert IV in Ageing Support would also continue to be included on the Free TAFE courses list to encourage Victorians to enter the aged care workforce.
If the Federal Government agrees, Mr Andrews said the measures would “vastly improve the quality of care” in ‘private’ aged care homes.
“Throughout the pandemic, there were just 15 positive cases in Victoria’s public aged care, including three residents and no deaths, showing the value of our ratios,” he said.
Victoria spending around $80 million on aged care staffing costs
Victoria was the first in Australia to introduce nurse-to-resident ratios in its Government-run aged care homes – which make up about 20% of the state’s aged care sector – in 2015.
These ratios are set at one nurse to seven residents plus one nurse in charge for morning shifts; one nurse to eight residents plus one nurse in charge for afternoon shifts; and one nurse to 15 residents on night shifts.
But these ratios come at a cost – around $80 million a year – and will present the Federal Government with a substantial bill.
Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, responded to the announcement, saying that the Commonwealth would wait until February when the Royal Commission hands in its Final Report to determine its position on nurse-to-patient ratios.
But if the Final Report may not recommend staff-to-resident ratios – in the Royal Commission’s final hearing, the Counsel Assisting rejected this idea in favour of mandated minimum staff time of 215 minutes per resident per day with some of that time to be provided by a Registered Nurse.
Will the Federal Government be likely to ignore this option in favour of one with a significantly more expensive price tag?