Nurse or midwife to patient ratios save lives by guaranteeing the minimum number of qualified nurses or midwives on each shift to ensure the safest quality of care for every patient.
Ratios in public sector, including aged care
In 2000, ANMF members fought for and achieved nurse and midwife to patient ratios. Victoria became the first state in Australia, and only the second place in the world, to have mandated minimum nurse and midwife to patient ratios. These were in the enterprise agreement applicable to public sector hospitals and nursing homes. In October 2015 these ratios became state law with the passing of the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratio) Act 2015.
However, these ratios are only applicable to public hospitals and public nursing homes. The majority of aged care beds are operated by non-government and private sector employers.
Why are there no ratios in private hospitals or aged care?
Minimum nurse staffing for private hospitals (in the private hospital regulations) and private aged care (in the state award) were scrapped during the 1990s by the Kennett government
Currently the federal Aged Care Act 1997 only requires aged care providers to have an ‘adequate number of appropriately skilled staff’. This sector is subject to federal rather than state legislation.
Despite numerous attempts to secure ratios in bargaining, no minimum staffing requirements exist to ensure quality care for aged care residents.
Despite numerous reports, research and countless inquiries, the Federal Coalition Government refuse to legislate for ratios.
How can we get ratios in aged care?
Running alongside the wider union ‘Change the rules’ campaign, ANMF has a national ‘Ratios for aged care. Make them law. Now’ campaign urging Federal politicians to make legislated aged care staffing ratios an election promise.
A list of Victorian elected politicians and candidates who have agreed to ratios can be found at ‘Aged care ratio law – where does your local politician stand?‘
What can I do?
With the aged care royal commission, and numerous stories of chronic understaffing leaving elderly Australians short of quality care, there is a growing community anger over the lack of action from politicians and providers.
Combined with a federal election on 18 May, now is the time for all members to get the word out to the community to make aged care staff ratios law. You can tell your candidate to commit to ratios and encourage their family, friends and colleagues to do the same