Aged care reform bill, including RN 24/7 mandate, introduced to Parliament

On the second sitting day of federal parliament, the new Labor government has introduced an historic aged care reform bill that, if passed, would legislate registered nurses on site and on duty 24/7 across all nursing homes.

The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill, crafted to “give older Australians the dignity and respect they deserve”, ensures that residents receive a minimum amount of care each day by appropriately skilled staff, and that aged care providers are transparent and accountable for their use of taxpayer funds.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) welcomed the new legislation, which delivers on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s pre-election pledge to reform the embattled sector and carry out key recommendations made by the Aged Care Royal Commission.

“This is a truly historic day for ANMF members working in aged care,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.

“While implementation of these crucial reforms will take some time, and will need to be phased in over the next two years, today marks the first real step towards actually fixing the aged care sector.”

After years of campaigning, Ms Butler said ANMF members working tirelessly in aged care would finally see reform with the introduction of safe staffing laws across the country, including a 24-hour, 7-day each week RN presence at all nursing homes, as well as a mandated minimum amount of safe, quality care each day for residents.

“These reforms, now to be enshrined in legislation, will ensure residents get the care they need and bring a halt to the neglect and suffering experienced by so many over the last decade.”

The aged care reform bill also places additional requirements on aged care providers to reveal how much they actually spend on areas like care, nursing, food, maintenance, cleaning, and administration. It also requires providers to disclose their profits.

“We look forward to working with the new government and the new Parliament to ensure effective implementation of these reforms,” Ms Butler said.

Meanwhile, the government also introduced the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 today. It contains nine measures to implement urgent reforms to the aged care system, and responds to 17 recommendations of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

According to the government, the Royal Commission Response Bill provides the legislative framework for the new AN-ACC funding model for residential aged care homes, which will replace the Aged Care Funding Instrument in October 2022. They say the framework will offer more equitable funding, better matched to providers’ costs in delivering the care residents need.

Other measures enshrine transparency and accountability of approved providers, and improve quality of care and safety for older Australians receiving aged care services. This includes the Star Ratings System, which will see the Department of Health and Aged Care publish a comparison rating for all residential aged care services by the end of 2022; and an extension of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to all in home care providers from 1 December 2022. The aim is to increase protection for older Australians from preventable incidents, abuse and neglect.

“We are wasting no time getting on with the job with fixing the aged care system,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement.

“The introduction of this legislation is the first step towards delivering new funding, more staff and better support to the sector, while improving transparency and accountability.”

New Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said the legislation would help protect vulnerable elderly Australians.

“24/7 registered nurses in residential aged care is a significant and much needed change to ensure high quality care for older Australians. This will be supported by the initiatives we have in place to grow and boost the skills of aged care nurses,” Ms Well said.

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