17 June, 2023
New aged care standards could threaten local facilities’ viability
Recommendations from the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, could have a huge negative impact on Gilgandra’s Cooee Lodge and Jack Towney Hostel.
While the recommendations are designed to improve
services to the most-vulnerable people in our community
— our elderly — the implementation presents broad
and complex challenges to local services.
This follows the federal government’s release of a
raft of recommendations and reforms in response to the
findings of the commission, including:
- That aged care residents have access to a registered
nurse in every aged care facility on-site, 24 hours a day,
- Enable a sector average of 215 “care minutes” per
resident, per day.
- Ensure better food for aged care residents.
- Provide tailored support for older people with disability.
- Increase access to culturally safe care for First
Nations Elders and older Australians from diverse communities.
- Limit the amount home care recipients can be
charged in administration and management fees.
- Redesign in-home aged care to meet the changing
needs of older Australians.
- Empower older Australians to make informed
- Introduce stronger regulation and independent
oversight to protect older Australians from neglectful
While many of the recommendations appear reasonable,
and necessary, given the controversy surrounding
the sector (especially during peak COVID-19 lockdowns),
it is hard to ascertain how local government
entities like the Gilgandra Shire Council will be able to
adhere to these measures.
For instance, ensuring that aged care residents have
access to a registered nurse 24/7 is, in principle, a beneficial
arrangement for aged care providers and residents,
Gilgandra Shire Council’s director of aged care
and disabilities, Donna Dobson said.
However, she added, there is currently a work-force
crisis and staffing shortages within the aged care sector
at a critical juncture,
“As a registered nurse (RN) myself I see the value
for our clients having ‘RN’ staff 24/7 and welcome the
change,” she said.
“However, the ongoing workforce crisis and disparities
between income and expenditure in the aged care
sector, make obtaining the goal of 24/7 registered nurses
difficult to implement.”
Recruiting, and keeping good staff in the sector, she
explained, is a long-term issue with few obvious solutions.
“Gilgandra council are endeavouring to recruit suitably-
trained staff to meet the requirement and have been
for some time, without success,” she said.
“We are looking at all opportunities including sponsorship
of immigration visa recipients, engagement of
new graduates, offering above award pay rates just to
name a few,” she added.
The issue will become critical, Ms Donna Dobson
believes, if staff simply cannot be found to fill the new
“It’s unclear what the position of the Commonwealth
government will be if we are unsuccessful in our recruitment.”
Strain on the sector and the demands on service
providers and the staff means that none of these problems
have easy solutions and it is likely to take a long
time, lots of negotiations, funding, and effort, to overcome
The difficulty to provide “tailored support for older
people with disability”, is another challenge faced by
council through these reforms,” Ms Dodson explained.
“With some of the changes coming from the aged
care reform, it is making it difficult for residential aged
care services to meet the individual needs of clients living
with a disability,” she said.
“Gilgandra Shire Council are committed to our
clients who we serve through Carlginda Enterprises and
Orana Living, and are currently actively seeking solutions
to meet the needs of the disability sector as they
These issues and complications have also been
raised recently by the federal member for Parkes, Mark
Coulton, who has called upon the Labor government to:
“immediately address whether they will require struggling
aged care homes to meet rigid staffing requirements
by July  or risk closure.”
In a recent statement, the Parkes MP acknowledged
that aged care minister, Anika Wells: “has now
acknowledged that the government’s legislated policy is
not deliverable, due to the impacts of the workforce crisis.
“However vulnerable aged care homes remain in a
state of uncertainty about what will happen to them, if
they cannot meet the current or any future deadlines
imposed,” he said.
The federal government is yet to respond to pushback
from state and federal MPs and the many service
providers over the impact of the suggested reforms.
The government has also not yet announced any concessions
or changes to its position either, as the fallout
from the royal commission into the aged care sector
continues and the conversation turns to the potential
changes between now and July 1 when they are due to
The aged care sector across the country has struggled for a long time to meet the quantity and quality of staffing required to meet the care of the elderly residents. This issue is played out across the entire industry in all the different kinds and sizes of service providers and programs, regardless of state or territory.
This is of course one of the reasons that governments
initiate reviews and inquiries into sectors.
During its inquiry period between 2018–2021, the
aged care royal commission unearthed examples of negligence,
exploitation, while highlighting the difficulties
with staffing levels within the sector.
Regional aged care facilities similar to Cooee Lodge
and Jack Towney Hostel, have their own problems managing
and maintaining consistent staffing levels for their
residents as a result of their locations.
This is a pressing and significant issue for the council.
It not only means that there remain several vacant
registered nurse positions, but more importantly, the
capability to ensure duty of care and the professional aid
required for an elderly person is not compromised.
In trying to improve the aged care sector, is it possible that unrealistic recommendations of the Royal Commission, could make matters worse?