Labor wants nurses in aged care facilities 24/7

A FOLEY Labor Government will require NSW's almost 900 aged care facilities to have a registered nurse on duty at all times.

NSW Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Ageing and Disability Services Linda Burney said as part of its health policy, a Labor Government would legislate to extend the legal requirement that NSW aged care facilities must have a registered nurse on duty at all times.

"Having senior nurses in NSW aged care facilities is good for the well-being of residents and provides peace of mind to family members with loved ones in nursing homes," Ms Burney said.

"This measure also support nurses and protects aged care residents, particularly those in high care - who are among the most vulnerable in our society.

"We make no apologies for improving the health and well-being of aged care residents. This is about ensuring that NSW aged care residents have the best possible care."

Currently, the registered nurse requirement is only in place in NSW until December 2015 - and NSW is the only Australian jurisdiction with this requirement.

Registered nurses oversee medications, including side effects; undertake nursing procedures like wound care and urinary catheters; provide palliative care and support and supervise (ENs) enrolled nurses and (AiNs) assistants in nursing.

The NSW Public Health Act 2010 requires all 'nursing homes' in NSW to have a registered nurse on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week, but, last year, changes to the Commonwealth Aged Care Act 1997 by the Abbott Government impacted on the NSW Public Health Act. This removed the requirement of a registered nurse.

However, on June 13, 2014, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner wrote to the NSW aged care sector putting forward an interim measure until December 2015. She said she wanted to consult with nursing home operators. Labor will make the registered nurse requirement permanent.

Under the NSW Public Health Act 2010, failure to comply with the registered nurse requirement carries a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units or a $11,000 fine.

There are about 880 Commonwealth-accredited aged care facilities in NSW run by some 300 aged care providers.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has been calling for registered nurses in aged care facilities.

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