REPORTER: Minister, do you want to summarise what you're seeing here, what you have seen so far in the Darwin and Territory facilities?
ANIKA WELLS, MINISTER FOR AGED CARE AND SPORT: I have had such a warm welcome here as this is my first trip to Darwin as the aged care Minister. Couldn’t have come across better people who've been telling me about what it has been like on the ground both during COVID and now coming out and we were just talking about how we feel like we are turning the corner on aged care.
Whilst so much has been promised for so long by governments of all colours. Now, the Albanese government has come in and legislated many things that will start to wash through the system and hopefully that will ease the conditions for workers who have been here for so long. I met the longest serving working here, Josie, who has been here for 32 years, but we want more Josie’s from people that have come to the sector to work. So it's been really good to get that top end perspective on how we might do that.
REPORTER: Wendy, there are two main topics floating around when it comes to the Commonwealth.
One is the pay rise that flows through soon, can you tell us about how that will impact your workforce?
WENDY HUBBARD, GENERAL MANAGER AUSTRALIAN REGIONAL AND REMOTE COMMUNITY SERVICES: Very excited to have that announced and we are committed to passing that fully on to our workforce and in particular our nurses who come to us and are interviewed and would like to work here but they look at the pay rate and come and only stay a short time or they don’t come at all.
So, this is very exciting for us to say that come 1 July we will be able to say we can give you a 15 per cent pay rise.
REPORTER: How many positions do you have open at the moment?
HUBBARD: Across the Territory we probably have about 40 positions but here in Darwin there are probably five or six.
REPORTER: What about providing a nurse 24/7… do you do that here and is that a new thing for you?
HUBBARD: Yes, we do. We have it because 24/7 nursing means absolute quality for all. All our facilities have it except for some in a remote area and one of our facilities in Katherine but that has a sister facility with 24/7. It's really important also for us to have a service manager who is an RN. So, we've got that constant oversight so it’s not just quality of life, but actually clinical care responsibilities.
REPORTER: As far as the broader goal goes, you know, we're just talking about how you are going to meet it, but it's been hard at some of the facilities. You got any idea about where the Northern Territory would sit with all its facilities in terms of bringing that stuff in?
WELLS: I think the NT is the perfect example of how remote areas, remote facilities in particular, need that extra help from the government and so we've got those exemptions in place for facilities like Katherine so they can hit that by 1 July. We've done many things to ease the crippling workforce shortages like fee-free TAFE places, student visa exemptions, our record pay rise and we just announced labour agreements on Friday. We were really excited to have people queuing out the door to get on those. Now have to wait for that to wash through the system and people to appreciate that there's amazing humanity and innovation and development for a career in aged care and want to come to work in the sector.
REPORTER: So, I'm sure we can speak to how useful it is to have a nurse 24/7. But as far as the government's concerned, what's the measure of success in terms of the outcomes?
WELLS: Well, the Royal Commission asked all of us to put nursing in place 24/7 where it didn’t exist. I think when you can attest that plenty of facilities have had it in place for decades, this wasn't a new concept. It was more trying to lift the standard across the country so that any resident no matter which facility they were in, got to appreciate the clinical care of a nurse 24/7.
So, the vast majority of facilities across the country now reach 24/7 or will by 1 July.
And we're now kind of working through the granular with the people who won’t reach it with the Commissioner who I saw a few times last week. She's taking a risk-based approach to this.
We're encouraging people to come forward and be proactive about it if they're worried they're not going to meet the target by 1 July. But if they have established that they really have done everything they could to uphold the intent of the rule and they've got alternative care arrangements in place like Wendy was saying she has in some of her facilities then the Commissioner has said that she will accept that and we will continue to work together so that we can get everyone to 24/7 as soon as possible.
REPORTER: Do you have any idea about facilities here that are short?
WELLS: Well, we have a sense from the department of where we are but because this is reporting that will come in after 1 July, after we start to pay everybody more money, we won't have that reporting until afterwards.