Aged Care Policy
General Date: September 2005
The Health Services Union believes there is a pressing need to improve the quality of aged care services in Australia to ensure that the country is properly equipped to handle a rapidly ageing population and the increased demand for services that will accompany that.
The first priority must be the implementation of measures to address the staffing and wage crisis which is compromising care and safety standards in residential facilities and making it difficult to attract and retain skilled staff.
The HSU should continue to work towards ensuring the wages and conditions of members working in the aged care sector are comparable with those paid to staff undertaking similar work in the acute care sector.
To improve the standard of care and reduce the workloads and stress facing the aged care workforce minimum levels of appropriately qualified staff should be introduced into all areas in residential aged care facilities.
Minimum staffing levels should cover allied health professionals, activity, cleaning and catering staff as well as care staff.
2. Training and Education
The minimum qualification for all staff in aged care should be an aged care certificate III (personal care) qualification from 2005. The training is to be funded by the employer.
The Federal Government should adopt in full the recommendations made by Professor Warren Hogan in his 2004 Aged Care Pricing Review regarding the provision of an additional 30,000 training places for aged care workers to complete certificate III and certificate IV qualifications.
To address the serious shortfall in nursing staff the Federal Government should also adopt Professor Hogan's recommendation that an additional 2,700 nursing places be made available by 2007 at Australian universities and Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). The additional places should only be available to training/educational institutions offering specialist training for aged care nurses.
3. Funding and Care
More emphasis should be placed on a personal care model that encourages independence rather than a medical model that encourages dependence in residential aged care facilities.
Future care subsidies for residential aged care should be linked to the cost of providing the benchmark of care.
This should include funding that ensures staff wages and conditions are to be maintained at levels no lower than equivalent staff undertaking similar work in the public sector.
Subsidies should be indexed against changes in component costs to ensure care funding is maintained in real terms.
Payments to providers should be conditional on agreement to undertake specified staff education and training programs and maintain minimum staffing levels.
Aged Care providers should be required to produce publicly available general purpose financial statements which include details of expenditure on care, staffing and training.
4. Aged Care Accreditation
The accreditation standards which aged care facilities are assessed against should be rewritten to ensure there are measurable outcomes in all areas. The standards should include minimum staffing levels.
Staff in all aged care facilities should be offered the opportunity to have a union official present during an accreditation audit to provide a briefing to inspectors free from intimidation and threats of reprisal.
Each aged care facility should be subjected to at least one unannounced spot check by agency inspectors during the term of its accreditation. This is in additional to scheduled site and desk audits.
5. Integrated Care
Greater integration of aged care and healthcare services is necessary to improve the quality of care provided to elderly Australians.
Federal and State governments need to agree on how to provide for the care needs of older people who require a level of care that lies between current hospital and residential aged care services.
Greater national co-ordination of community care programs is necessary to reduce duplication and address gaps in services.
A preventative care program should be established by the Federal Government to coordinate existing services designed to promote healthy living among all Australians.
The HSU supports the introduction of specialised assessment, treatment and rehabilitation programmes for hospitalised elderly Australians aimed at improving patient return to the community and reduced hospital readmission rates
6. Provision of Places
The Federal Government should move to a five year planning cycle for the allocation of aged care places to ensure growing demand for places is more adequately met.
A strategic pool of an additional 3,000 places a year should be put in place to ensure there is the flexibility to meet changes in demand. A ready list of providers who are able to bring on beds within three months should be maintained with priority given to those providers when beds are allocated from the list.
7. Consumer Information and Accountability
The HSU supports the establishment of a comprehensive online service for consumers which compares the available services and quality of care in residential facilities. The service should include details on staffing, fire and safety compliance, staff training and a range of care standards.
An Aged Care Ombudsman should be created to ensure that serious complaints from residents, staff and families are thoroughly investigated and acted upon.
It shall be an offence to intimidate any person for providing any information in respect of an accreditation or for making a complaint to the Aged care Ombudsman or other relevant authorities.