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16 November 2021

Senator Rex Patrick today condemned the failure of Coalition MPs to support his proposed amendment to the Aged Care Act 1997 to require all aged care facilities to have at least one registered nurse present at all times.

“The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety highlighted many very serious problems with Australia’s aged care system, and no one doubts that urgent action is required to provide better quality of care and services to our senior Australians,” Senator Patrick said. 

“Despite this, Coalition Senators on the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs today rejected my initiative for all aged care facilities to move without delay to ensure that there is a registered nurse on call 24/7. Rather than work proactively to improve things or our elderly citizens, they instinctively kicked the problem into the too hard basket.”

“Currently in Australia, there is no nationwide requirement for nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty at all times.

“I’m concerned many aged care residents are not getting the care they need, and that their care is highly variable depending on where they are located across Australia. The inconsistent approach leads to variations, often negative in nature, in the level of care and quality provided to residents. This is a particular issue in regional Australia, in areas such as South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.”

“Proper care for our elderly is critical and it requires aged care homes to have registered nurses on site at all times. Having a registered nurse present in an approved aged care facility will improve the quality of end of life care; improve communication between residents, family and other health care professionals; and promote preventative healthcare and address wellbeing issues that affect restorative care.”

While Senator Patrick acknowledged that the Royal Commission recommended nursing homes to have a registered nurse in every aged care facility by at least1 July 2024, he said: “Nursing home residents, their families, the aged care workforce, and the wider Australian community cannot wait any longer. July 2024 is just too far away.”

“My amendment to the Government’s Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 2) Bill 2021 has attracted support from a number of key organisations with members directly involved in aged care including Palliative Care Australia, Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia, and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.” 

“However in their report released today on the Government’s legislation, the Government members of the Senate Community Affairs Committee, have failed to think with any ambition on what can be done to make life better for many aged care residents.”

“As a consequence, there will likely be further delay in the implementation of a key measure that would make a significant improvement to the care and well-being of aged Australians residing in residential care facilities.”

“Fortunately, separately from the proposed amendment to this legislation, I have introduced a private senator's bill, the Aged Care Amendment (Registered Nurses Ensuring Quality Care) Bill 2021, to achieve the same outcome.”

“If my amendment is unsuccessful, I will look to expedite my Bill through the Senate." 

“The question of ensuring the best possible care and support for elderly Australians is too important not to be further considered in the life of the current Parliament,” Senator Patrick said. 

Senator Patrick’s additional comments in the Senate Community Affairs Committee report can be found here