Today is a date that has been dreaded by age care providers across the country, as Labor’s expedited 24/7 registered nurses requirement hits the sector amidst a severe workforce crisis.
The Aged Care Minister has acknowledged that many providers – particularly small and rural, regional and remote providers - will not be able to meet Labor’s expedited deadline due to the significant workforce and financial pressures facing the sector.
This is a clear broken promise to older Australians and their families.
The Department of Health and Aged Care has revealed that over the next three months, the sector is 8,100 nurses short of being able to meet Labor’s staffing requirement, which they brought forward against the recommendation of the Royal Commission.
The Albanese Labor Government has failed older Australians by forcing this requirement on providers they know cannot meet it.
As the aged care sector deals with the immense stress of trying to fulfill this requirement when the workforce is just not there, we know that facilities have already had to close and many more are considering this option – forcing older Australians out of their homes.
It is extremely worrying that the Albanese Government is now forcing aged care providers to assume legal risk if they do not have a registered nurse on site 24/7 – as this is now required by law – in the midst of these difficult conditions.
The Aged Care Minister has proven that her political priorities are more important than providing genuine support to aged care providers, which they desperately need to continue to provide high quality care to our older Australians.
Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston said, “The Coalition is really concerned that there is no protection for the majority of aged providers who are unable to have a registered nurse on site 24/7, as is now legally required.
“In the midst of a workforce crisis, the Minister is not listening to older Australians and she’s not listening to the providers who care for them, despite the significant stress and pressure they are now facing.
“I have been contacted by many providers who don’t know what they are going to do, as they have been advertising nurse job vacancies for months to no avail. Instead of alleviating the stress that her own Government has caused the aged care sector, the cries for help are falling on deaf ears,” Senator Ruston said.
The Coalition has always been very clear that we support the implementation of 24/7 registered nurses in aged care homes, but we recognise that the Royal Commission recommended this requirement not be mandated until 1 July 2024.
We continue to call on the Albanese Government to provide much needed support and flexibility to aged care providers as they try to recruit nurses in the midst of a workforce crisis.
The Government must expand their limited exemption criteria while this workforce crisis remains ongoing, and they must provide additional flexibility for rural, regional and remote communities in recognition of the unique circumstances they face.