NSW Government abandons 24/7 nursing in aged care homes

May 2, 2016

The requirement for NSW aged care homes to have a registered nurse on duty around the clock for frail residents will be abandoned after the Baird Government decided it was the federal government's problem.

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association said it was "gobsmacked" by Health Minister Jillian Skinner's response to a NSW Parliamentary inquiry, which had urged the Baird Government to retain 24/7 registered nurses in NSW nursing homes.

Old people will be put "at risk" by the move, according to the Greens. 

Ms Skinner has told the inquiry aged care homes were now regulated by Commonwealth law and it would

"The only benefit of removing the 24/7 Registered Nurse requirement is increased profits for nursing homes. But it comes at a high cost to elderly residents and their families," said Ellis Blaikie, CPSA senior policy adviser.

Greens MP Jan Barham said: "Without 24/7 registered nursing, residents can wait for hours or days for pain relief or to have a catheter changed or have the specialised care that recognises symptoms of an emerging condition."

Ms Blaikie said nursing homes would have no choice but to transfer residents to already overwhelmed hospital emergency departments for basic treatment if there wasn't a nurse on duty.

Registered nurse Jocelyn Hoffman told Fairfax Media last year she was "very scared for the future of aged care" if the requirement for a nurse was abandoned in NSW. 

"It is a big thing for families to bring their loved one in to a nursing home, and they want to know they are being looked after. We are all entitled to medical care, and that doesn't diminish when you get older," she said.

NSW Nurses and Midwives, Alzheimers Australia, National Seniors and the Australia and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine were among the groups urging the Baird Government to keep nurses in aged care homes around the clock for high needs patients. 

Hospital was not a good place for dementia patients, and high quality care was a human right, Alzheimers Australia said.

Ms Barham said the Baird Government had ignored a recommendation supported by its own MPs.

"Some of these facilities have over 300 residents. Now there's no guarantee they'll have a registered nurse on site during the day, overnight or on weekends," she said.

The inquiry found that NSW should retain a 24/7 nursing rule because the current federal regulation fails to ensure safe staffing levels and registered nurse care for residents.

"Doctors, nurses, gerontologists, academics, health professionals, older people and their families were unanimous in their call for 24/7 registered nursing," said Ms Barham.

"Even NSW Health opposed removing the regulation."

In a response to the inquiry lodged on Friday, Ms Skinner said the government recognised the "wide range of concerns raised" and would "pursue concerns about the current regulatory regime through the the COAG Health Council".

Nursing home providers including Bupa and Uniting Care had opposed the requirement for a 24/7 nurse in their submissions to the inquiry. Uniting Care said the cost impost could lead to closures.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-government-abandons-247-nursing-in-aged-care-homes-20160430-goium1.html#ixzz47S4gwgiG

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