Only 5% of aged care providers currently meeting 200 direct care minute requirement: UTS report

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Just 5% of aged care homes have a direct care workforce that would exceed the Government’s sector average 200 care minutes per resident per day, which will be in force by October 2023 – and operators of all sizes will be challenged to find the care workers and Registered Nurses required to bridge the gap.

Direct care staffing time in residential homes only increased by 1.9% to 178.02 minutes per resident per day in December 2021, up from 174.72 minutes for December 2020, according to UTS’ Australia’s Aged Care Sector: Mid-Year Report (2021-22).

This includes a moderate uplift in the care provided by Registered Nurses (28.2 minutes per resident per day in December 2021 compared to 26.28 minutes in December 2020) and a small increase in care provided by personal care workers (131.7 minutes per resident per day in December 2021 compared to 130.56 minutes in December 2020).

As of December 2021, 85% of surveyed homes had sufficient staff to meet the RN on-site requirement – but only 19% currently provided more than 200 minutes direct care time per resident per day, and just 13% provided 40 minutes or more of RN time per resident per day, with only 5% of homes having a direct care workforce above all three thresholds.

The report predicts that to reach the minimum care time standards, aged care homes as a whole will have to increase their total care staffing by 12.4% (an average of 22 minutes per resident per day), and registered nurse staffing by 41.8% (an average of 11.8 minutes per resident per day).

Lead author Dr Nicole Sutton tells The Weekly SOURCE that while some operators will not have to meet the 200-minute requirement depending on the case mix of their residents, those with higher acuity residents will need to exceed the minimum standard – and operators of all sizes will be challenged.

“For example, smaller homes on average have staffing rates above the direct care staffing time and the RN time. But they are much less likely to be above the RN shift requirement because having an RN on shift for two shifts a day is a significant cost,” she said.

“We see the vice versa at larger homes. If you have 120 residents, to increase the time per resident per day, you will need a greater quantum of staff.”

Dr Sutton also expects that workforce shortages are likely to worsen over the coming year with the release of 75,000 Home Care Packages between December 2021 and 2023 and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being able to fulfill those Home Care Packages will put real constraints on trying to increase staffing in residential care at the same time.

“Attracting staff back into the sector over the next 18 months after COVID will hinge on what changes might come down the track in terms of work and conditions and pay, particularly the outcome of the Fair Work Commission case.”

Attracting enough Registered Nurses will also be a pain point for operators, Nicole added.

The report does raise the possibility of exploring the role of Enrolled Nurses – currently not prescribed in the care minute requirements – in residential care.

“Enrolled Nurses do need to be supervised by a Registered Nurse,” said Nicole. “They are not a substitute, but there are possibilities of thinking through the full composition of the care workforce beyond just personal care workers and Registered Nurses and making sure that we have the full gamut of care staff to be able to deliver services.”

Food for thought.

You can read the full report here.