NSW Coalition MPs voted down a bill, 35 to 45, on May 11, that mandated registered nurses in residential aged care facilities. Labor, the Greens, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, as well as Independents Alex Greenwich and Greg Piper supported the bill.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association’s Brett Holmes said the government’s decision was “shameful” because not having skilled nurses in nursing homes would mean that the quality of care provided to some of the state’s most vulnerable would deteriorate.
The Coalition government argued that small regional aged care facilities would have to close if they were required to employ one registered nurse as mandated in the Public Health Act 2010. So they decided to remove Division 4 of the act.
Holmes said this was a spurious argument given that “regional aged care facilities receive Commonwealth funding for complex or high care patients at the same rate as city-based facilities and at least 70% of all residents are deemed to be high care before entering the site”. He said small rural or isolated facilities also receive special federal funding.
Paula Sanchez, a nurse, educator and researcher told Green Left Weekly that the decision would be disastrous and potentially lethal.
“We already know the system is stretched, and there are not enough trained staff in many nursing homes.
“We have reports of substandard care in some places, including the watering down of pain killers. This means that vulnerable people are not only not being care for, they are often in extreme pain and not able to do anything about it.”
The union reiterated that removing registered nurses from high care nursing homes will erode safety measures for protecting residents in the already stretched public hospital system.
The union campaign to keep registered nurses collected more than 24,000 signatures in 2015, and it will continue to campaign at a state and federal level to fight for appropriate staffing and skill mix in aged-care facilities.