The Guardian March 1, 2000


Re-regulate nursing homes

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) Victorian Branch has called on 
the Victorian State Government and the Federal Government to re-regulate 
the nursing home industry. The call followed the latest incident at 
Riverside Nursing Homes where 57 residents had been given kerosene baths 
and left without water to `treat' skin conditions.

At a press conference last Friday Ms Hannah Sellers, Acting ANF (Vic 
Branch) Secretary said that the State Government should restore the 
regulations concerning nurse/resident ratios that were repealed by the 
Kennett Government and which gave it power to prosecute breaches in 
standards of care.

Ms Sellers singled out the following issues:

"Firstly, as it stands at the moment, we have a system where proprietors 
can employ anyone they like to provide care whether they are qualified or 
not. They do not have to employ any registered nurses let alone employ 
appropriate numbers of registered nurses.

"Secondly, we have a system in which nursing home providers aren't called 
to account for the money they spend on nursing care.

"They get the money, and they can do what they like with it, because the 
Federal Government has removed the legislative requirements that previously 
compelled proprietors to use the money to provide proper nursing care.

"Thirdly, we have a monitoring system that is completely inadequate and a 
Federal Minister for Aged Care who has failed to use it or fix it", said Ms 
Sellers.

Under the old system, contact officers in government departments referred 
complaints to the monitoring team in the region which would follow it up by 
visiting the agency.

The monitoring team had the right to enter a facility where they believed 
there was an issue without notice to the proprietor.

Under the present system the action (if any) is discretionary, and 
proprietors have the right to refuse entry to agency personnel and the 
agency must give "reasonable notice" before entering a nursing home.

The Federal Aged Care minister Bronwyn Bishop went into a frantic damage 
control over the kerosene baths. Whether her robust attempts to shift blame 
somewhere else succeed or not is irrelevant.

The fact of the matter is that the Government's very own nursing home 
safety watchdog which is supposed to monitor health and safety standards in 
nursing homes has failed dismally.

The agency has not paid a single surprise visit in two years to the 
3,000 nursing homes it is supposed to monitor. Not a single surprise visit 
when 4,000 complaints have been lodged in the same period.

As Ms Sellers very rightly said at her press conference "at every level, 
the system is failing the people of Victoria and their friends and families 
who are in nursing homes, and the State and Federal Government must act 
immediately to turn this around".

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