Are our aged care homes really ‘dumping’ residents at hospitals?

That was the accusation this week from Queensland’s Health Minister Steven Miles, who told news media some aged care homes are refusing to hire medical staff so they can send sick residents to hospitals and save money. 

The Minister was quick to accuse providers of “exploiting a loophole” as only nurses have the skills to diagnose a resident and prescribe the appropriate medication.  

Around 70 per cent of aged care staff are lower-paid personal care attendants, while registered nurses make up 15 per cent of the workforce and enrolled nurses nine per cent. 

So if there are no nurses on call, it is more likely that an ambulance will be called if a resident falls ill. 

But the simple fact is aged care homes do not have the funding to provide hospital-level care. 

Australians are also going into aged care at later ages with more complex care needs. According to the Federal Government’s aged care data site, 92 per cent of residents have high care needs. 

Sadly elderly residents often have more chronic conditions that make them more susceptible to other illnesses such as UTIs too. 

The issue of attracting – and retaining – staff 

The Minister has demanded the Federal Government mandate nurse-to-resident ratios in aged care in the same way child care centres do. 

Currently it’s up to individual providers to set their own staffing ratios, according to the Department of Health. 

Could more experienced nurses reduce the rate of residents being sent to hospital? Likely yes, especially on night and weekend shifts. 

However this requires providers being able to offer the wages and working conditions to attract and retain staff. 

As we reported here, aged care nurses are paid up to $300 less a week than those working in the hospital and medical centre systems. 

We all have the right to hospital care when we need it. If the Minister wants aged care facilities to employ more medical staff for residents, then they need adequate funding to do it. 

https://www.gen-agedcaredata.gov.au/  

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A special thanks to our contributors

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Journalist

Journalist

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

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Ian Horswill

Journalist

Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

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Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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Jill Donaldson

Physiotherapist

Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

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Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

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Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.