The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) is again calling on the federal government to urgently make a commitment to solving the care crisis for Australia's elderly by ensuring minimum staffing levels, closing the wages gap for nurses, and ensuring the licensing of all aged care workers.

Responding to the latest crisis at the Kirralee Residential Aged Care Facility in Victoria, ANF federal secretary Ged Kearney said there was no doubt that the failure of the previous federal government to ensure adequate staffing levels and skills mix in aged care had placed patients at serious risk.

"The new federal government has an opportunity to end this crisis and ensure the highest quality of care for all Australians in residential aged care."

Ms Kearney said for the Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot to achieve her promise to place the safety, health and welfare of residents first the government must introduce minimum staffing levels in aged care facilities. Registered and enrolled nurses along with other nursing care staff cannot provide quality care if they are continually short staffed.

The ANF believes that Australia's nurses working in aged care are at breaking point because of impossible workloads and a lack of support, there is no incentive for them to stay in an industry which continually offers chronically poor pay and conditions.

"Those nurses still working in aged care are paid, on average, $250 per week less then their colleagues in other areas. They can earn up to $20,000 less per annum. When will the federal government start putting mechanisms in place to ensure funding reaches the nurses, giving Australia's elderly a better chance of receiving quality residential care?'" The ANF says another mechanism for ensuring quality care in nursing homes is the licensing of aged care workers.

"All nursing care staff should be licensed," Ms Kearney said, "Licensing of nurses, doctors and other health professionals is undertaken for a very good reason - to protect the public."

"There are 280,000 nurses in Australia, making up well over 50% of the health care workforce. Nurses know health care and they understand aged care. It would be a tragedy if the people most suited to delivering high quality care to Australia's vulnerable aging population were unable to work in the industry because the federal government will not address the issues."

The ANF, representing nearly 160,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses and midwives in Australia.

Australian Nursing Federation

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