3 min read

Aged care must have support

Aged care must have support

In this blog that I wrote for The Daily Telegraph , discover the urgent need for systemic changes and top-down frameworks to secure the future of quality care.

The federal budget’s promise of a 15 per cent pay rise for aged care workers was a necessary and overdue measure.

In recent years, the sector on which we’ll all eventually rely has teetered worryingly close to collapse. As well as the Royal Commission, which exposed alarming gaps in the safety and care of patients, labour shortages are ongoing. It’s predicted we’ll see a shortfall of 110,000 aged care workers through to 2031.

Incentivising work in the sector is vital to care for our ageing population. Those of us 65 and over are projected to increase by 54 per cent through to 2041, while those in the over 85 segment will soar by 140 per cent over the same period.

Increased labour is also needed to fulfil new measurable laws in the wake of the Royal Commission. From July, aged care homes will require a registered nurse on-site 24/7. From October, residential aged care homes will need to deliver at least 200 minutes of care to each resident per day from registered and enrolled nurses, and personal care workers.  

The government hopes this will see at least 8,000 new or returning aged care workers join the industry. However, at the same time, we need to recognise the need for other measures to clear the roadblocks to recovery.

Many aged care facilities are racing against the clock when it comes to balancing resources with these new requirements.

Wesley Mission in Sydney and Brightwater in Perth both recently announced plans to close, citing the inability to keep up with new staffing stipulations. This means potentially thousands of residents, who were recently protected by contracts and financial models, are now tasked with starting anew.

Widespread financial hardship is another factor, with government data recently finding the sector lost almost $440 million in the first quarter of the 2023 financial year.

In my observation, having worked closely with aged care organisations, most of them don’t have the tools in place to match internal skills and costs with the day-to-day running of facilities.

As an example, staff skillset information often lies in spreadsheets without any link to operational systems, creating a silo between the skills available, the staff on shift and Royal Commission-driven measures. Managers usually manually cobble together a government report by comparing the spreadsheet data, payroll system, finance and roster information without considering the variables or nuances of actual daily operations. 

This not only undermines the findings of the Royal Commission, which were designed to keep residents supported and safe, but means the data fed to government, which informs resourcing, staffing and funding decisions, is unreliable.

We can’t leave these measures solely to the discretion of individual providers. Each facility has its own processes, systems, and interpretations – for instance, what constitutes a productive hour on the job – and without a set standard, aged care simply won’t make the necessary headway to meet new laws, stay open and service the population.

The government needs to step up and establish a repeatable framework that facilities can leverage to meet these obligations. This will enable managers to have complete visibility over the number of nursing unit managers, nurses and assistants connected to the facility, and to compare this with the skill levels on site and care minutes administered.

Not only will this streamline skills allocation, for instance, by drawing upon data and sending out messages to fill certain shifts, but it will mean managers will have access to accurate information to drive decisions, improve resident quality of care and report to the government.

A clear, guiding light can remove guesswork and means providers are less likely to fall back into old habits that kept the band-aid on in years past. 

It’s also imperative these changes are led with input from people with expertise within the organisation. After all, who better is there to understand the specific challenges and opportunities faced by the aged care sector than those at the coal face.

While steps are being taken to attract and retain labour in the aged care sector, there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed at the source. Repeatable frameworks delineating the link between skills and operations are essential – and they need to come from the top down.

Aged care providers know there are issues in the sector. While challenges won’t be solved overnight, with clear direction from government, they can begin righting the ship, and providing Australia with the ongoing and reliable quality of care we all need.

Jarrod McGrath is author of The Digital Workforce and The Modern CEO


Originally published by The Daily Telegraph.
Jarrod McGrath, May 31, 2023


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