The Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport has presented its advisory report to Parliament on the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018 introduced by Independent MP Rebekha Sharkie back in August, recommending that the Bill be passed and:
- The Department of Health publish staffing ratio figures in a way that allows consumers to consider resident acuity levels when comparing facilities.
- The Government legislate to ensure that aged care facilities provide for a minimum of one Registered Nurse to be on site at all times; and monitor and report on the link between standards of care (including complaints and findings of elder abuse) and staffing mixes to guide further decisions in relation to staffing requirements.
- For 12 months following its implementation, the Department monitor (and make legislation and other adjustments where necessary), whether there is a need to report on staffing ratios at night and on weekends; and whether the Bill creates an unnecessary reporting burden, particular for smaller facilities.
- The National Aged Care Quality Indicator Program be made mandatory for Government-funded aged care services; and be expanded to include a broader range of key indicators, to be determined with the aged care sector and consumer groups.
- 12 months after implementation, the Government review the effectiveness of publishing staffing ratios in improving transparency and consumer choice.
Under the Bill, providers would also have to notify the Secretary within 28 days if their staffing levels changes by more than 10% between the quarterly reporting requirements.
The Committee does state they don’t believe that publishing the ratios on their own will increase transparency for consumers or the quality of care for residents, instead throwing their support behind “the development of a broad, consumer-oriented, ratings system”.
“Despite these limitations, the Committee supports the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018 (the Bill) as it will increase the amount of information available to consumers. It may only be a minor step, but it is a first step,” they write.
The Committee also acknowledges that staff numbers alone won’t guarantee quality care, noting that the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service had a high staff to resident ratio.
“Nevertheless, the Committee is of the view that there is a minimum level of staffing that is required if quality care is to be consistently provided.”
The Bill still needs to be passed – but with the Royal Commission about to get underway and aged care at the forefront of politicians and the community’s minds, the prospect of mandated ratios seems increasingly likely.
You can read the report at the Committee’s website HERE.