To carry out the new aged care reforms, we have ten to fourteen months to find 869 nurses and thousands of aged care workers.
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Where will we find the quality aged care workforce required to carrying out the reforms and when will they be remunerated appropriately for their work?
In brief, the legislation passed by both Houses on Tuesday 2 August 2022 included two key reforms, recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, to the quality of care provided in aged care residential homes, namely:
The presence of at least one nurse 24/7 by the 1 July 2023, with mechanisms in place to allow exemptions from this requirement. (Recommendation 86)
An average of 200 minutes per day of care by 1 October 2023, and an average of 215 minutes of care per day by 1 October 2024. (Recommendation 86)
To carry out these reforms, a substantial increase in the aged care nursing and care workforce is required and they need to be walking the corridors of residential aged care homes within 10 to 14 months.
With a workforce: exhausted by more than two years of COVID-19; leaving the aged care sector at the rate of 65,000 a year; and currently registering a shortfall of 30,000 to 35,000 workers - can we do it?
It’s a question that must be keeping the Minister for Health, The Hon Anika Wells MP, awake at night. It is one that I have been raising for a number of years. & 
Requiring 24/7 nurses in every Australian residential aged care home was not a commitment the former Coalition Government was prepared to make, hence the delay in seeing the legislation pass in both Houses of Parliament before the May 2022 election.
24/7 nurses in residential aged care homes
In introducing the proposed legislative reforms to the Parliament on Thursday 27 July 2022, the Minister estimated that:
“…about 80 per cent of the facilities across Australia already fulfil or nearly fulfil that requirement for 24/7 nurses, so we are focused 110 per cent on the 20 per cent of facilities that are not yet fulfilling the 24/7 nursing requirement.”
From my experience of visiting multiple residential aged care homes a week, this figure of 20 per cent is about right. But putting aside percentages, what it is the actual number?
This was the first question posed to the Minister by the Deputy Opposition Leader, The Hon Sussan Ley MP.
The magic figure: 869 nurses
The Minister responded with the figure of “869”. Australia needs 869 additional nurses to fulfil the requirement of having 24/7 care in residential aged care homes across the country.
During a subsequent Question Time in Parliament the Minister added that to meet the reforms, in particular the average 200 minutes per day of care for each resident:
“Thousands of personal carers, thousands of kitchen staff and thousands of other staff in aged care are going to be required to get to … a better standard of care.”
This is bravely declared by The Minister when our own nurse union, the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation, warns there are at least 8,000 registered nurse positions currently being advertised and that this is likely to be an underestimate. Here we’re just speaking of nurses, not aged care workers!
Australia, stop poaching overseas nurses
Meanwhile, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) is asking Australia to stop poaching nurses from developing countries and train our own. This comes as the Government expands existing overseas labour schemes and introduces new visa rules.
We need our own nurse and care workforce strategy – now!
With a shortage of nurses around the world, it is not fair or ethical for wealthier countries like our own to poach workers from developing countries that also face shortages.
As ICN CEO, Howard Catton points out, wealthier countries have been too relaxed in relying on overseas workers. Australia needs a nurse and care workforce strategy of our own and we need to invest in nursing education.
Look out for my next blog addressing remuneration of nurses and the care workforce.
Seeking care for a loved one? Please feel free to call me, Danielle Robertson, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.
 DR Care Solutions: New Parliament Moves On Aged Care Reform: Need To Pick Up The Pace
 DR Care Solutions: Aged Care Reforms Recently Passed in Parliament
 Royal Commission Into Aged Care and Safety: Final Report
 CEDA: Duty of Care - Aged Care Sector In Crisis
 DR Care Solutions: Federal Budget 2021: Spend Wisely To Build The Aged Care Workforce
 DR Care Solutions: Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Top Recommendations
 Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation: Australia Facing Nursing Shortage As More Than Two Years of COVID Takes Its Toll
 The Sydney Morning Herald: Train Your Own Nurses, Australia Told Amid Global Shortage
 DW: Council of Nurses CEO On The Global Nursing Shortage [at 2 minutes]