Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 September 2017


Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients) Bill 2017; Second Reading

3:44 pm

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table an explanatory memorandum and I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


Elderly Australians have contributed valiantly to society, and throughout their lives have helped make Australia the great country it is. They have worked, volunteered, paid taxes and raised families. Some have been to war, and many live with the scars. Unfortunately, many of these Australians who have given so much to society are highly vulnerable, and are not currently guaranteed the standard of care they deserve within our aged care facilities.

The Aged Care Act 1997 fails to prescribe a minimum staffing standard for Australian Government funded aged care residential facilities, and does not specify what constitutes 'appropriately skilled and qualified staff' for the purpose of providing care. New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria prescribe staffing requirements for some residential aged care facilities, but all elderly Australians deserve the best level of care when they can no longer live independently, and instead rely on others for their health, protection and wellbeing.

It's hardly surprising that international research suggests that higher Registered Nurse staffing levels, higher total staffing levels and a high skills mix (ratio of Registered Nurses to other nursing staff) are associated with better quality care. And that is what this amendment is seeking to do; to enhance the level of care provided by aged care facilities nation-wide. The majority of aged care staff in Australia are personal care attendants (PCAs) or community care workers (CCWs), with a declining share of registered nurses (RNs) over the last decade or more. In 2016 the average total care hours worked per resident per day were 2.9 hours.

This Bill introduces the concept of a mandated ratio of skilled staff to care recipients in Australia's aged care residential facilities. The task of calculating a safe and specific ratio (including providing for variables such as day and night shifts, higher and lower care residents, and for metropolitan, rural and regional areas) should be undertaken by the Department of Health in consultation with the aged care sector, and included in the Quality of Care Principles.

The passage of this Bill would be an important step in moving towards an aged care system that is more focussed on the protection of the elderly than on profit margins of aged care facilities.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.