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‘Get cracking’ on 24/7 RNs across the country: Helen Haines

‘Get cracking’ on 24/7 RNs across the country: Helen Haines

Independent member for Indi, Helen Haines. Photo by Sam Mooy via Getty Images

Victorian Federal MP Dr Helen Haines has called on the Morrison Government to explain ‘when and how it will deliver tangible progress on aged care’.

Speaking to her private members bill in Federal Parliament on 24 August 2021, Ms Haines said ‘It’s close to six months since the aged-care royal commission handed down its report, yet it has all but disappeared from the national conversation.’

Dr Haines, the independent MP for Indi and former nurse, called on the Morrison Government to fully commit to the royal commission’s recommendation 86 by mandating always having a registered nurse on site at a residential aged care facility.

‘The need for clinical care doesn’t operate in shifts and cannot wait for two years,’ Dr Haines said.

‘I know finding the workforce we need will not be easy, because of the long-term erosion of the sector, but we need to get cracking.’

Federal ANMF Secretary Annie Butler commended Dr Haines for standing-up for older Australians and asking the Morrison Government why it had not yet addressed mandated staffing, workforce training and retention, improved aged care services for rural and regional Australia and transparency in aged care providers’ fees and charges.

The Morrison Government has committed to a registered nurse on site for 16 hours a day by 2023.

The aged care royal commission recommended at least one registered nurse, in addition to minimum care minutes, should be on site for the morning and afternoon shifts (16 hours) by July 2022. It recommended this should be extended to the night shift by 2024.

Federal ANMF argues all minimum staffing and care minute recommendations should be implemented with urgency.

Labor MP Ged Kearney, also a former nurse and former ANMF secretary, supported the motion for a registered nurse 24/7.

‘Having a registered nurse and staff and skills ratios is important. I am sick of the stories of neglect. I am sick of the penny pinching.

‘Even as we speak and despite a royal commission, there is a list of major providers cutting hours and trimming their rosters,’ Ms Kearney said.

Victoria’s public sector residential aged care facilities have legislated nurse resident ratios.

The majority of Victoria’s private residential aged care enterprise agreements include a 24/7 registered nurse clause. Members in these facilities are calling out for more registered nurses, reflecting the royal commission findings of understaffing.

A requirement for a registered nurse on site at all times would benefit a number of Victoria’s regional and rural private aged care facilities which do not have an EBA RN 24/7 clause. Victoria also has a number of private residential aged care facilities that roster registered nurses on day shifts, but not nights or weekends.

ANMF will be seeking to address this in the current round of private aged care enterprise bargaining.

The RN 24/7 issue is even more pressing in other states such as New South Wales where five years ago the state government removed a legal requirement for a registered nurse on site at all times.