Open letter calls on PM to legislate aged care ratios

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), together with the Australian Medical Association (AMA), The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine (ANZSGM), has published an open letter in today’s edition of The Australian newspaper calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to guarantee the nation’s elderly receive access to safe and quality care by legislating minimum staffing ratios in aged care.

The open letter argues mandating aged care ratios gives Australia the opportunity to become a world leader in care for the elderly.

“Older Australians, those who cared for us as we grew, are entitled to affordable, accessible and high-quality aged care services delivered by a professionally trained, accredited and dedicated workforce. They do not deserve the current chronic understaffing that leads to unnecessary pain and suffering,” the letter states.

“Caring for elderly people, especially those with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and other disabling health conditions, is a stressful occupation requiring the right people with the right knowledge and skills to develop and implement holistic care plans customised to individual needs.”

The open letter refers to studies pinpointing inadequate staffing as the main reason behind missed care in residential aged care and that chronic shortages across the sector are reaching “critical proportions”.

It suggests multidisciplinary teams made up of GP’s, geriatricians, palliative care specialists, nurse practitioners, dieticians, speech pathologists and allied health workers can enable registered nurses to deliver effective care with dedicated, qualified care-workers, resulting in safe and best practice care for Australia’s elderly.

In May last year, the ANMF launched its national public awareness campaign – Ratios for Aged Care – Make Them Law Now – calling on federal politicians to legislate minimum staffing ratios in aged care.

The increasing scrutiny on the sector led to the Morrison Government establishing a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in October to examine the crisis.

In the open letter, the ANMF argues staffing ratios can lay the foundations for better quality standards in aged care but acknowledges achieving high-quality aged care services is complex.

It is adamant, however, that the Aged Care Royal Commission should not delay urgently needed reforms and cause unnecessary pain and suffering, and undignified deaths, of the elderly.

“We know it requires an investment but we also know that the investment will be recovered through more jobs and by productivity gains over time.

“The measure of a society is how it cares for its elderly, those who cared for us.

“Right now we don’t measure up, but we can, and we can become the world leader in care for the elderly as we should be.”

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