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MPs have called on the Morrison Government to urgently commit to one of the key recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission by ensuring at least one registered nurse is on site round the clock at all residential aged care facilities.

Dr Helen Haines, a former nurse and the Independent Member for Indi, yesterday put forward a Private Members’ Motion in Federal Parliament that would make it mandatory for an RN to be on shift at all times in nursing homes.

“I know that having nurses onsite benefits not just the residents, whose care is complex, from chronic pain management, diabetes control, wound management, mental health issues, cognitive care to palliative care support, but also to the personal care attendants by providing them with expert help and timely advice,” Dr Haines told the Parliament.

The Royal Commission recommended RNs on every shift be phased in from 16 hours a day in July 2022 to round the clock care by July 2024.

“Yet the Government has only committed to 16 hours per day, which will not be mandatory until October 2023, and this is not good enough. The need for clinical care doesn’t operate in shifts and cannot wait for two years,” Dr Haines added.

Labor MP Ged Kearney backed the motion, saying an RN on staff at all times was crucial.

“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.”

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) commended Dr Haines’ motion, saying it was “deeply disappointed” that the Government had so far delayed action on addressing inadequate staffing levels in aged care.

“The nation was horrified by the Royal Commission’s shocking discovery of widespread neglect and systemic failings across the aged care sector, which is why we find it hard to believe that the Government hasn’t responded to the Royal Commission’s most important recommendations to fix aged care,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.

“Unfortunately, with no national laws to guarantee appropriate ratios of qualified nursing staff and aged care staff, the suffering of our elderly will continue.”

Ms Butler said the union commended Dr Haines for holding the Government to account and standing-up for the older members of society by questioning why the Government has yet to address the crucial issues affecting the sector. These include mandated staffing, workforce training and retention, improved aged care services for rural and regional Australia and transparency in aged care providers’ fees and charges.