High-care nursing homes need RNs, low-care doesn't

NSW's 620 low-care retirement villages would face huge financial burdens unless the law requiring registered nurses on call 24 hours a day is reworded.
NSW's 620 low-care retirement villages would face huge financial burdens unless the law requiring registered nurses on call 24 hours a day is reworded. AlexRaths

LAZY legislation will mean registered nurses are mandatory in all aged care facilities - even those deemed "low care" - unless it is repealed, according to the chairman of the Far North Coast Aged Care and Community Services Association.

Phillip Carter was one of 50 submitters to the NSW Parliament's inquiry into the proposed removal of mandatory registered nurses from high-care nursing homes.

Mr Carter, also CEO of the St Andrew's Aged Care Facility in Ballina, said a separate issue with "ludicrous" consequences had reared its head after the government removed the legislative distinction between low and high-care beds in July last year.

"There is no doubt that registered nurses are respected and required in the previous-styled nursing homes," he said.

"However, because of the stroke of a pen, a registered nurse would be required 24 hours a day in facilities that previously did not require or need them.

"This is absolute bureaucracy gone mad."

READ RELATED: Workers fight to keep registered nurses in nursing homes

Mr Carter argued the state's 620 low-care retirement villages would face huge financial burdens unless the law was reworded.

"As an example, for a small 47-bed facility such as Timbrebongie House Aged Care Narromine, this could be as much as $400,000 per year," he said.

"Small facilities in the Far North Coast will be affected financially in the same way."

The vast majority of submissions took the opposite tack, pleading with the NSW Government not to eliminate the need to have registered nurses on duty at all times in high-care units.

One submitter, whose name was kept confidential, said nursing home residents in northern NSW were already struggling with under-training and staff shortages.

"In the past few years I have visited three elderly friends in two separate nursing homes in the Lismore area," the submission stated.

"The lack of staff shocked me and often I would see people wandering, looking for a drink of water or to be shown the toilet.

"I witnessed one incident of cruelty when a male nurse left his patient (my friend) without clothes, his hearing aid or glasses for a prolonged period of time after he had showered him in cold water and told him he shouldn't be here anyway because he was so old.

"This once noble man had been a leader in his small rural community was mortified and reduced to tears."

Registered nurse Bevlyn

Grant, who has worked in the industry for more than 40 years, argued more registered nurses should be encouraged to join aged care, rather than fewer.

"Until recently I was responsible for clinical governance of 150 people in two different units. One unit with 60 people (was) dementia-specific," she said.

"Although I was employed for 7.5 hours a day, in an effort to complete the work I worked an average of two to 2.5 hours unpaid overtime every day.

"The need for registered nurse to person ratios in aged care and particularly dementia care is paramount to providing good care to these people and maintaining the financial viability of the organisation."

The inquiry will publish its final report at the end of September.


Topics:  aged care nsw politics nurses nursing nursing homes parliamentary inquiry retirement village

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