The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) today told the Senate Community Affairs References Committee that the pursuit of profit must not be allowed to put our vulnerable elderly at increased risk.

Providing evidence to the Committee’s inquiry on ‘Effectiveness of the aged care quality assessment and accreditation framework for protecting residents from abuse and poor practices, and ensuring proper clinical and medical care standards are maintained and practised’, Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN warned a focus on ‘fiscal’ measures is leading to nurses being replaced in aged care by unregulated workers.

“Mistreatment of aged care residents is a serious concern,” Adjunct Professor Ward said. “Having at least one Registered Nurse (RN) on staff at all times in every residential aged care facility (RACF) in this country can improve the care provided to residents and decrease the risk of mistreatment.”

Data shows the skills-mix in residential aged care has significantly changed in recent years. In 2003, RNs made up 21 per cent of the aged care workforce, today this figure is around 14.9 per cent.

“Demand for aged care is increasing. People living in aged care have co-morbidities associated with physical and cognitive decline and require complex care. Yet we are seeing the skills-mix eroded and less qualified staff asked to take on a larger load,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

“When we were preparing our submission, we asked nurses around the country to provide input and they overwhelmingly told us that until there are appropriate staffing levels, and appropriate skills and skills-mix requirements in aged care, then resident protections will be inadequate.

“There is currently a $3.5 billion shortfall in aged care workforce funding. If we are serious about attracting the best professionals into aged care in the future, the sector must be properly funded and pay rates and staffing levels must recognise the complexity and challenges of caring for our vulnerable elderly.”

ACN has called on the Australian Government to mandate that a RN be onsite and available at all times and for the regulation of all workers who provide care in a RACF.

A full copy of the ACN submission to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee is available here.

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