Residential care falling 20 minutes short on 200 minute direct care requirement before Omicron, warns StewartBrown – Fed Govt needs to support wage increase

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Aged care homes recorded an average of 180.39 direct care minutes in the accounting firms’ latest September quarter survey – indicating that providers will need to increase their staffing by 19.61 minutes or 10.9% to meet the 200 minute direct care requirements due to be in place by October 2023.

While the numbers represent an increase on the September 2020 quarter average of 178.64 minutes (see the graph above), they are still far short of the mandated requirement which is now due in 21 months’ time.

At the same time, these results were prior to the current Omicron wave and the reports we are hearing of staff burnout and resignations.

StewartBrown warns: “To achieve this mandated level will require additional direct care staff to be employed. This will be a significant challenge for the sector, particularly in regional, rural and remote locations where registered nurse availability is at a premium.”

More funding required to increase wages

Can the sector be expected to increase its staff over the next two years to meet these requirements without help?

The answer is no.

StewartBrown argues: “Targeted initiatives designed to attract, train and retain staff will be a major strategic imperative in the coming years. Incentives which may include the provision of low cost accommodation and increased remuneration will require the funding and support from Government.”

Only increased funding – to raise wages and provide more training and career pathways – will give people the confidence and promise of a future to work in aged care.

With the Fair Work Commission’s ruling on a 25% increase in workers’ wages due in July unlikely to get the green light, there is only one sensible option to provide the required funding: increased co-contributions from older Australians who can afford to pay for the cost of their care.

Could both sides of politics reach consensus now – and save providers, staff and residents the worry over how they will deliver and receive quality care?