Less than 4% of Australian aged care homes would meet new minimum staff levels

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The Federal Government’s mandatory minimum staffing levels in aged care homes may be a tough ask, with a study showing only 3.8% of homes would currently meet those requirements.

Born from the Royal Commission, the new requirements – set to come into force on 1 October 2023 – mandate that providers ensure residents receive at least 200 minutes total care per day, 40 of which must come from a registered nurse, with an RN required to be on site for morning and afternoon shifts every day.

However, the study – led by the University of Technology Sydney senior lecturers Nicole Sutton and Nelson Ma, as well as Professor of Nursing Aged Care (Dementia) Deborah Parker – found that though 79.7% of homes would meet the on-site RN requirement, only 10.4% had levels of total direct care above daily requirements, with 11.1% meeting the RN care requirement; only 3.8% had staffing adequate to all three requirements.

“The homes most at risk of non-compliance are likely to be larger with more residents to care for, located outside metropolitan cities and run by small providers.

“Interestingly, while smaller homes were more likely to meet the two requirements about daily minutes, they were much less likely to have an RN on site for two shifts,” they wrote in an article on The Conversation.

According to the research team, homes falling below the standards would need to raise total care by an average of 43 minutes and RN time by an average of 18 minutes per day. They also warned that, with the sector’s workforce already under strain, the new requirements will cause further demand for RNs.

“While training and retention initiatives announced in the recent federal budget will help, much more will be required, such as improved working conditions and pay, to arrest the decline of RNs in the sector.

“In addition, targeted government support will likely be required to help homes outside the major cities, and those smaller in size, to attract appropriate care workers to fill shortfalls,” they wrote.

Evidence presented at the Royal Commission showed that 57.6% of all Australian aged care residents lived in homes with inadequate staffing levels.