By Joshua Thomas
Leichhardt Council has unanimously passed a motion to publicise their support for registered nurses in nursing homes.
The motion, passed on Tuesday June 23, proposed council support the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association in their campaign to keep registered nurses on at all times in nursing homes.
This comes following the federal government’s amendments in July 2014 to the Commonwealth Aged Care Act, which removed the requirement for on-duty registered nurses in aged care facilities.
The amendment to language in the act can directly impact on NSW government legislation, and there are concerns about the potential loss of registered nurse care in NSW.
Leichhardt Labor Councillor and registered nurse, Linda Kelly, introduced the motion, which included commitments to write to the Minister and Shadow Minister for Health.
“I recognise and value the role of all nurses working in aged care, but nursing teams led by registered nurses is vital for the delivery of quality and safe care to our elderly in nursing homes,” Clr Kelly said.
“Our community has a proven track record for supporting those most vulnerable and I am sure they will get behind our elderly in nursing homes.”
In addition to Leichhardt Council, the neighbouring councils of Ashfield, City of Sydney and Marrickville have all expressed concerns over the removal of the 24-hour requirement for registered nurses in nursing homes.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association are opposing any plans to remove the requirement. Through their campaign ‘Insist on Registered Nurses 24/7’, the association generated a petition with over 10,000 signatures to present to NSW Parliament for debate in the Legislative Assembly. In previous days an Upper House inquiry for the issue has been announced.
A spokesperson for the association, Rita Martin, expressed a need to raise ‘community awareness’ on the issue, emphasising the importance of having a registered nurse on at all times within nursing homes.
“There is a misconception that patients sleep all night and therefore don’t need nursing”, Ms Martin told City Hub.
According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data, Australia has approximately 160,000 elderly citizens receiving residential care with 67 percent of those living in nursing homes.
An Access Economics report published late last year suggests that between 2003 and 2007, registered nurses within aged care dropped from 21 to 17 percent, with the number of enrolled nurses also dropping from 14 to 12.5 percent.
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services told City Hub that “It is the responsibility of individual [nursing] homes to determine the type and numbers of staff they require to ensure residents receive high quality care, and this is monitored by the Aged Care Quality Agency.”
Clr Kelly said that Leichhardt Council intends to take this issue to its residents.
“Leichhardt Council will engage our community to raise awareness that the NSW State Government is reviewing legislation that potentially can have serious implications for the delivery of quality and safe care for our elderly in nursing homes.”