The Guardian 14 February, 2007

ANF welcomes funding injection
with reservations

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has given cautious welcome to the attention the Prime Minister is giving to the aged care sector, with the announcement last week of a $1.5 billion funding package. The ANF noted however that it is pointless injecting more money into the aged care sector unless it is spent wisely.

"There have been too many reports of inadequate care", Federal Secretary of the ANF, Jill Iliffe said. "The most frequent reason for non compliance with the Aged Care Accreditation Standards is inadequate clinical care. Additional funding to the aged care sector should be tied to a review of the Accreditation Standards so that older Australians and their families can be assured of quality care".

The ANF has also called for the licensing of all workers who provide care to older people. "You license electricians and plumbers", Ms Iliffe said. ‘Why is it that the people who provide care to one of the most vulnerable groups in our community, older people, are not licensed?"

Quality care means targeting funding so that the right mix of workers are employed and that staffing levels are adequate. Paying workers in aged care a decent wage is an important first step. Currently nurses working in aged care earn $235 a week less on average than nurses working in other sectors.

While the ANF supports additional funding to allow older people to stay in the community for as long as possible they are concerned that there is little monitoring of care provided in the community. "Some of the funding must be used to ensure that older people receiving care in the community are receiving appropriate care provided by workers with the necessary skills", Ms Iliffe said. "Too often care provided in the community is hidden and vulnerable people, such as older people, people with disabilities and people with mental health problems, suffer."

According to the ANF, if the Federal Government and Mr Howard really care about the aged care sector, aged care providers need to be made more accountable for the care provided and for the public money they receive. "Older people are our history", Ms Iliffe said.

"Anyone who has worked in aged care knows how much they have contributed to society and how much they still have to offer. They are vulnerable and they need our protection. A review of the Accreditation Standards, establishment of minimum staffing levels and skills mix, licensing of all workers in aged care and accountability for the way public money is spent is what the ANF and the 150,000 nurses the ANF represents wants. How about it Mr Howard?"

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