The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has welcomed the Aged Care Royal Commission’s six recommendations which the Morrison Government must implement immediately to manage COVID-19 in aged care but says it doesn’t go far enough to protect older Australians living in nursing homes.
Whilst the ‘Aged Care and COVID-19: a special report’ found that ‘COVID-19 is a public health crisis that has disproportionately affected aged care in Australia’, the ANMF is disappointed and concerned it has failed to address the core staffing problems of dangerously inadequate levels of qualified nurses and care staff with the right skills mix and the tragic consequences of understaffing on elderly residents.
“Nursing homes desperately need additional nurses and care staff to provide safe, effective care outcomes for residents, not just to enable more visitors. While that is critical for the wellbeing of residents, more staff are urgently needed just to meet basic needs for residents in far too many nursing homes,” Ms Butler said.
“Our members have been on the frontline during the pandemic and have witnessed how it has stretched staff and resources even further, again demonstrating the importance of having sufficient staffing levels and skills mix, to cope with intensified demands and workloads.
“In Victoria, where privately-run nursing homes set their own staff ratios, there’s been more deaths and higher rates of COVID-19, than in Government facilities, which have mandated minimum staffing levels, including registered nurses on every shift.
“We welcome the recommendation for immediate additional funding but reiterate the need for greater transparency for any additional Government funding, because aged care providers must be held accountable – and actually use the money for its intended purpose of employing additional nurses and carers for the depleted sector.”
Ms Butler said the ANMF particularly welcomed the recommendations that the Government must publish a national plan and establish an expanded national aged care advisory body comprising genuine experts from the field rather than bureaucrats.
“We are pleased the Government will act on all the report’s recommendations, including the urgent need for one or more accredited infection control officers in nursing homes. The tragedies in Victorian and NSW nursing homes have sadly shown why aged care providers must have sufficient supplies of PPE and clear infection control guidance, education and supervision for all of their staff, to better protect residents,” Ms Butler explained.
“The Royal Commission states that ‘never before has the aged care sector in Australia faced a challenge like COVID-19’, which is why urgent action is necessary, with the Government working in consultation with health experts like the ANMF, so we are in the best position to deal with further outbreaks of COVID-19 in aged care.”