A NSW Government Upper House inquiry, chaired by Labor Party MLC Courtney Houssos, has recommended amending a state law to require registered nurses (RNs) be on duty at all times in all residential aged care (RAC).
The amendment to the Public Health Amendment (Registered Nurses in Nursing Homes) Bill 2020 is for an appropriate level of RNs for the number of residents. Currently, mandated minimum nursing requirements are only for aged care facilities built before 2014.
The inquiry heard that there has been a gradual decline over several decades in the number and mix of qualified health professionals in the aged care sector with an increase in non-clinical personal care workers.
The inquiry, which is awaiting a response from the NSW Government, also recommended the NSW Government through National Cabinet urge Federal Government to:
- To implement a mandatory staffing mix ratio in aged care facilities, including on site registered nurses, personal care workers and allied health professionals, based on the needs of residents to ensure their safety and dignity at all times;
- To provide additional Commonwealth funding for aged care, conditional on implementing a mandatory staffing mix ratio at all times to ensure the safety and dignity of residents in aged care facilities.
It also sought the NSW Government:
- Undertake detailed analysis of the cost-shifting that occurs in the NSW public health system due to RAC facilities failing to have a registered nurse on duty, on site at all times.
- Enhance the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 to ensure registered nurses are on site at all times to manage, procure and administer medications required by RAC residents;
- Advocate for a national register to enable providers to check if staff implicated in a sexual assault of a resident.
Will the State Government take up the recommendations however?
The Royal Commission had recommended 24/7 RNs in residential care, but the Federal Government has only backed an RN being onsite for a minimum of 16 hours per day by 2023.
If the Morrison Government won’t support 24/7 nurses, what are the chances that NSW will?