Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 28 February 2001
Page: 24695


Mr BILLSON (7:33 PM) —I rise tonight to talk about aged care and the terrific services being provided by all the facilities in the Dunkley electorate. Over the Christmas-New Year period, I was fortunate enough to be able to present certificates of recognition to all of the aged care facilities in the Dunkley electorate, recognising that all had achieved the maximum three-year accreditation through the quality standards system that the Commonwealth government has put in place. The exciting thing about that was the opportunity to work my way through the facilities and not only to meet with staff and the proprietors of those facilities but also to speak with a number of residents about the issues and concerns that they had. A central theme that kept recurring was the shortage of qualified nursing staff available to the aged care sector generally but in particular to outer metropolitan communities like the one that I represent.

I have heard people talk about the limited number of qualified nursing staff available to rural and regional areas, and I am not happy to inform the House tonight that it is not limited to just rural and regional areas: it also extends to the outer metropolitan areas. Many people would say that the training of nurses and the availability of an appropriate range of skills to support not only the aged care sector but the health sector more generally is a state government issue. But I would like to put to you, Mr Speaker, and to this parliament a suggestion that, even though we are not responsible for the training of nurses, we in the Commonwealth parliament do have a stake in the availability of the appropriate skills so that we can support our aged care facilities.

Let me give you two illustrations of why this is important. First of all, many aged care facilities bring in agency staff—that is, they are unable to employ the qualified nurses they are looking for permanently so they pay agencies to have qualified staff made available. That practice attracts a premium of between 30 to 45 per cent over and above the cost of employing that qualified nurse directly by the facility. That means that 30 to 45 per cent of the funds available for the care of residents is going to the agency for the convenience of tracking down qualified nursing staff on a temporary basis. So resources available to the aged care sector are actually going to the payment of nursing staff at a premium rate over what would be paid if the qualified nurses were directly employed by the aged care facility.

Another area related to this is that residents like to know and develop friendships and relationships with the staff that provide for their care and wellbeing in the aged care facility. A constant concern that was raised with me was that a number of the residents do not know who the staff are. More particularly, the staff are not always aware of the particular idiosyncrasies of the residents—whether they have coffee, whether they have tea, issues about their family and their general wellbeing or particular cultural interests they have. So you end up with a bit of a disconnection between the residents—bear in mind, this is their home—and the qualified staff that have been brought in through the agency to provide for their care.

My suggestion is to look at extending the Flynn scholarships for GPs, which ensure that qualified GPs are available in regional areas, into the aged care sector to make sure that appropriately trained nursing staff are available to outer metropolitan and rural and regional aged care facilities. The idea would involve designating a number of the best aged care facilities in outer metropolitan areas and in rural areas as training facilities where we could perhaps provide a financial incentive to those facilities to make available their experienced staff, to transfer their knowledge and experience over to people with experience in the aged care sector wanting to upgrade their skills to a nursing standard. You would be able to recognise that there is time involved in that: provide some incentives for the facilities that are participating, even organise for block release for those nurses in training to do the theoretical side of their training while providing a pathway of additional qualified nursing staff to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible available and affordable nursing care in our residential aged care facilities. I think that is a constructive suggestion. I think it is a way forward. I think it is a way of expanding the available qualified nursing staff to a very important area of our community, the aged care community, and I think it is something the government should seriously have a look at to make sure that the money that is available for care for our ageing and frail community is going directly towards their care and is not being lost to agency arrangements where a premium is paid because there is not the qualified staff available. (Time expired)