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Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients) Bill 2017

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2016-2017

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients) Bill 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator Derryn Hinch)



OUTLINE

 

The Aged Care Act 1997 fails to prescribe a minimum staffing standard for Australian Government funded aged care residential facilities, and does not specify what constitutes ‘appropriately skilled and qualified staff’ for the purpose of providing care.

 

International research suggests that higher Registered Nurse staffing levels, higher total staffing levels and a high skills mix (ratio of Registered Nurses to other nursing staff) are associated with better quality care. This amendment will enhance the level of care provided by aged care facilities nation-wide. The majority of aged care staff in Australia are personal care attendants (PCAs) or community care workers (CCWs), with a declining share of registered nurses (RNs) over the last decade or more. In 2016 the average total care hours worked per resident per day were 2.9 hours.

 

This Bill introduces the concept of a mandated ratio of skilled staff to care recipients in Australia’s aged care residential facilities. The task of calculating a safe and specific ratio, including for variables such as day and night shifts, higher and lower care residents, and for metropolitan, rural and regional areas, should be undertaken by the Department of Health in consultation with the aged care sector, and included in the Quality of Care Principles .

 

The passage of this Bill would require the Quality of Care Principles to mandate a minimum adequate and safe ratio of appropriately skilled staff to care recipients. This ratio should take into account the number of care recipients receiving care through the aged care service at that time, the type of care and level of care provided.

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1: Short Title

 

1.                         Clause 1 is a formal provision specifying the short title of the Bill.

 

Clause 2: Commencement

 

2.                         The Bill will commence on the day it receives Royal Assent.



 

Schedule 1 - Amendments

Aged Care Act 1997

Item 1 - Paragraph 54-1(1)(b)

Item 1 substitutes paragraph 54-1(1)(b) to introduce the concept of a mandated ratio of skilled staff to care recipients.

Item 2 - At the end of section 54-1

Item 2 amends section 54-1 of the Act to mandate an adequate and safe ratio of skilled staff to care recipients is specified by the Quality of Care Principles.

Item 3 - At the end of Division 54 of Part 4.1

Item 3 adds the criteria to be considered when implementing the ratio of skilled staff to care recipients by the Quality of Care Principles.

 



 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients) Bill 2017

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

 

This Bill introduces the concept of a mandated ratio of skilled staff to care recipients in Australia’s aged care residential facilities.

 

The majority of aged care staff in Australia are personal care attendants (PCAs) or community care workers (CCWs), with a declining share of registered nurses (RNs) over the last decade or more.

 

The average ratio of residential direct care workers to operational places (beds) was 0.78 in 2016. Average total care hours worked per resident per day were 2.9 hours in 2016.

 

The Aged Care Act 1997 does not prescribe a minimum staffing standard for Australian Government funded aged care services. New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria prescribe staffing requirements for some residential aged care facilities, but all elderly Australians deserve the best level of care when they can no longer live independently, and instead rely on aged care residential facilities for their health and wellbeing.

 

The Australian Government is the primary funder of aged care in Australia, and as such is the most appropriate regulator of ratios of skilled care givers to care recipients. The minor change introduced in this Bill - the introduction of mandated ratios which would be determined by the Department of Health - would be an important step in moving towards an aged care system that is more focussed on the protection of the elderly, than on profit margins of aged care facilities.

 

Human rights implications

 

The Bill engages the following human rights:

 

·         the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;

·         the rights of equality and non-discrimination.

 

The Bill promotes the right of everyone, including the elderly, to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health as set out in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the right to equality and freedom from discrimination for older persons.

 

International research suggests that higher Registered Nurse staffing levels, higher total staffing levels and a high skills mix (ratio of Registered Nurses to other nursing staff) are associated with better quality care. Legislated ratios of appropriately skilled care givers to care recipients have long existed in hospitals and child care centres, and this Bill seeks to extend the same protection to the elderly.

 

Conclusion

 

The Bill is compatible with human rights as it promotes the human rights to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

 

[Senator Derryn Hinch]