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Wednesday, 1 September 2021
Page: 5729

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (16:08): 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.

Senator SIEWERT: 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—

Today I introduce the Aged Care Amendment (Registered Nurses Ensuring Quality Care) Bill 2021. This Bill will make it mandatory for aged care facilities to have at least one registered nurse on duty 24/7.

This is an important change to the Aged Care Act 1997. As we have seen from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, there is a very real problem with the standard of care being provided to residents.

The Royal Commission made 148 recommendations with recommendation 86 recommending nursing homes to have a registered nurse in every aged care facility by 1 July 2024.

However, there is no reason to wait, for some residents experiencing low quality nursing care, it's just too far away.

Nursing home residents, their families, the aged care workforce, and the wider Australian community cannot wait any longer.

Currently, the average aged care resident receives only 36 minutes of care per day from a registered nurse. The Royal Commission recommended that at least 44 minutes per day of care being provided by a registered nurse.

A registered nurse onsite, every shift for 24 hours, can achieve this. Is it really too much to ask that our elderly, our parents and grandparents, have access to a registered nurse when and as they need?

Eight additional minutes will make all the difference to a resident with complex multiple care needs - dementia, mental health, chronic and acute conditions, disabilities and frailty.

The reality is, we are all aging and it is our right to age with dignity, respect and with access to the health services we may need.

We're living longer than ever before and it is highly likely that most of us will require some level of care being provided to support us - this could be via a fulltime live in nursing home or through flexible care.

Presently, many aged care facilities have favoured a model of care for residents based on costs and a business profit model. They have elected to put the responsibility of the provision of essential and personal health care on staff not adequately trained or experienced to provide these services.

The result is increased risk of adverse health outcomes for the resident, less preventative health intervention, which often leads to increased referrals to local hospitals for issues that a registered nurse is trained to resolve.

I've heard many stories of registered nurses leaving the sector due to the decision to reduce registered nurses in aged care facilities.

They talk of burnout, exhaustion, being worn out and disheartened at the impacts of reduced staffing and added burdens being placed on too few staff. This has been further exacerbated by dealing with and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They talk about residents being treated as cattle in a production line, being forgotten and not getting the level of care expected at the end of their life. All too often, there is just not enough staff and appropriate skills mix to deliver the care that is required. This has dire consequences on residents, their family and staff, as we have witnessed from the Royal Commission report.

They talk about the increased use of unqualified staff with limited training and no nursing experience replacing the care, experience and training of nursing staff.

For nurses, who have devoted their lives to caring for others, it must be a heartbreak to see how aged care residents are treated and know that it doesn't need to be this way, if only there was a registered nurse present on every shift twenty four hours a day.

It is time we listened and addressed this avoidable and preventative situation.

Aged care residents deserve more than to be forgotten as they approach the end of their life. They deserve more than to be treated as a commodity for profit. They deserve to be cared for by registered nurses who will care and support them, keep them comfortable and let them enjoy the rest of their life comforted in knowing they have access to appropriate medically trained staff as and when they need.

Proper care for our elderly requires access to a registered nurse imbedded in their aged care facility - it really is that simple.

This will be achieved with my Bill.

I'd like to thank the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation for all their assistance with the Bill.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Senator SIEWERT: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.