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Explaining: Why don’t private nursing homes have ratios?

Explaining: Why don’t private nursing homes have ratios?

Supporters at the launch of the 'Aged care ratios. Make them law. Now' campaign in Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's electorate in May 2018.

Victoria’s 5200 state public nursing home beds are the only aged care beds in Australia that have nurse : resident ratios.

These beds come under the federal Aged Care Act 1997. Importantly because they are owned by the Victorian Government they also come under the state’s Safe Patient Care Act 2015. This legislation specifies ratios for morning, afternoon and night shift, in public health services.

These nursing homes receive federal funding which is topped up by the Victorian Government.

Unfortunately, the Andrews Government’s landmark ratios legislation cannot be applied to the rest of the approximately 48,000 nursing home beds in Victoria’s private-for-profit and not-for-
profit facilities.

There is no law that requires them to roster a specific number of nurses or carers.

These nursing homes are the responsibility of the Federal Government and come under the federal Aged Care Act 1997. To increase the number of nurses and carers each shift this law must
be changed.

So only Prime Minister Scott Morrison or Opposition leader Bill Shorten, if he wins the next election, can fix private aged care.

Five reports published about the Australia’s aged care sector in 2017 revealed a lack of will on the part of the Federal Coalition Government and employers to implement legislated ratios in all
nursing homes.

Let’s compare the staffing requirements of the state and federal laws:

One flimsy clause on page 252 of the federal Aged Care Act 1997 says the provider has the responsibility ‘to maintain an adequate number of appropriately skilled staff to ensure that the care needs of care recipients are met’. ‘Adequate’ and ‘appropriately skilled’ are undefined and unenforceable.

Page 12 of the Victorian Safe Patient Care Act 2015 states aged care beds must be staffed one nurse for every seven residents, plus a nurse in charge on the morning shift, one nurse for every eight residents, plus a nurse in charge on the afternoon shift and one nurse for every 15 residents on the night shift.

The difference is stark.

That’s why we are campaigning for ratios in private aged care.

Key points

  • the Federal Aged Care Act 1997 requires Victoria’s private-for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes providers have an ‘adequate number; of ‘appropriately skilled staff’
  • Victoria’s Safe Patient Care Act 2015 requires the state’s public nursing homes must have mandated nurse resident ratios for every shift
  • Ratios in Victorian public nursing homes are 1:7, plus a nurse in charge on morning shift; 1:8, plus a nurse in charge on afternoon shift; and 1:15 on night shift

This article first appeared in the ANMF (Vic Branch) members quarterly magazine, The Handover, October 2018.