Aged care providers have welcomed Senate amendments to the government’s aged care reform bill that would bring forward the requirement for 24-hour registered nurse coverage to 2022. The amendments in the Senate are yet to be adopted in the House of Representatives.

If the bill becomes law, providers will require emergency funds and additional workforce to implement the 24-hour coverage in all facilities. Otherwise, the closure of some regional, rural and remote providers is a serious risk because there simply aren’t the workers and funds available right now.

More than 80 per cent of facilities already have registered nurses on shift overnight, but some facilities have difficulty finding suitable staff to work these shifts, which can become even more difficult when rostered staff call in sick.

Aged care was already suffering a serious workforce shortage and low wages prior to the pandemic; attracting nurses has become even more difficult through the pressures of the last two years.

The successful amendment to the bill in the Senate has highlighted the urgent need for workforce action in aged care. It has brought to a head overdue dramatic action to support our workers in order to provide quality care to older Australians.

Aged care providers are urging the current government, and whomever forms the next government, to prioritise aged care wages to prevent an ongoing and devastating workforce crisis.

Since the start of the pandemic, aged care workers have gone above and beyond. They should be getting the pay they deserve and career certainty. The Royal Commission recognised this. It’s well overdue for that this is fixed once and for all.

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) recently marked the anniversary of the Royal Commission by calling for:

  1. A Workforce Partnership Supplement for providers to spend immediately on increasing wages, training, minutes of care, 24-hour nursing and COVID-19 prevention and workforce retention costs.
  2. A minimum wage increase for aged care workers by funding the Fair Work Commission Work Value Case, and award wage increases from July 2022.
  3. A commitment to a multidisciplinary workforce by putting in place an allied health needs assessment and funding model by July 2024.

In its pre-budget submission, the AACC also made clear the urgent actions required on COVID-19, workforce and sustainability.