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NSW Plans To Remove Registered Nurses From Aged Care Facilities

NSW Plans to Remove Registered Nurses from Aged Care Facilities
NSW Plans to Remove RNs from Aged Care Facilities

18 June 2015

Aged Care Reviews

Nurses in NSW are worried that the laws might soon change, allowing nursing homes to run without onsite registered nurses. This might be brought about due to changes in the way aged care is funded, on a federal level. If this does in fact go forward, the elderly citizens residing in many nursing homes might miss out on important medical care. Since many of these residents rely on regular nursing care to keep them healthy, and even alive, it is hard to imagine that this change could be allowed to happen.

Jocelyn Hofman is a nurse working with from the Blue Mountains region. Facing fears of this possible change in policy, she stated “I'm very scared for the future of aged care if this goes ahead. We need the public to know because the public doesn't realise what is going on.” It's clear that other geriatric doctors and related specialists believe that this change must be stopped. A group called Alzheimer's Australia NSW said that it is a threat to the “basic human rights” of elderly citizens. This organization represents nursing homes that provide “high-care”, to those who need plenty of medical attention. They also believe that the law is currently not policed enough as it is, and essentially amounts to red tape.

Registered nurses have hands-on involvement with residents in nursing homes. They play a key role in assessing the people who need medical care the most: aged citizens in nursing homes. Without constant monitoring and care, it is far too easy for their conditions to slip, and it can go unnoticed. Nurses do more than just give medical care to the ill. They help with things like proper diet, cognitive activities, treatment for chronic illness, managing pain medication, and even the swallowing of food and drink. If something should go wrong, such as a blocked feeding tube, an onsite nurse is often the only qualified person available to help.

Brett Holmes, the general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said that issues first came about after changes in how nursing homes were funded at the federal level. This occurred in 2014, and it basically took away the distinction between “low care” and “high care” nursing homes. Rather than allocating funding to the homes, funding is now given at an individual level for patients. This essentially made it impossible to keep the localized NSW policy, where high-care nursing homes were required to have on site registered nurses at all times.

There were 600 nursing facilities adhering to the NSW policy about registered nurses. The local government has been trying to decide what they should do next. It is likely that many high-care nursing homes will continue to keep a registered nurse on duty at all times. However, Mr Holmes stated that “We need laws for the group of people who won't do the right thing.”

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Associate has created a petition, and they aim to gather at least 10,000 signatures. This will hopefully be enough to bring the issue to the attention of parliament, so that it will be debated.

John Watkins, the chief executive of Alzheimer's Australia NSW, stated in a message to the NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner: "High-quality aged care for people living with dementia is a basic human right for a most needy group of Australians.” He went on to explain it was unacceptable and inappropriate to take steps to “downgrade the qualifications of those who care for aged people with dementia in nursing homes.”

Facilities with high-level residents should have access to at least one registered nurse, on staff at all times. If you are looking for a suitable facility for an aging parent, check that they do uphold this belief. Even if the policy does change, making it non-mandatory, most good high-care nursing homes will still take it upon themselves to give proper care. That means providing one qualified nurse, at the very least, around the clock, every day of the year. It is the least that should be expected from homes that are meant to cater for aged people who are in need of constant health care.

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