COVID and aged care rightly dominate Budget, but opportunities missed

The Australian College of Nursing believes tonight’s Budget had to focus on the key issues facing health care in 2020-21, but while it ramps up funding for priority areas such as COVID, aged care and preventive health, it has missed opportunities to effectively address these challenges.

“COVID and aged care have dominated the health agenda this year and will continue to do so into 2021,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said. “While we welcome the funding announced tonight, we are concerned that in some instances the impact of enabling nurses to practice to their full scope continues to be overlooked.”

The Australian College of Nursing commended the decision to extend the successful telehealth items and the $10.8 million over five years announced last week to enhance the skills and competencies of Enrolled Nurses and Registered Nurses working in aged care. This will be achieved by expanding ACN’s Scholarship Program and establishing an Aged Care Transition to Practice Program to help graduate nurses transition to the aged care workforce, and to establish a skills development program for nurses and personal care workers working in residential aged care.

“Building capability in aged care was a main recommendation of our pre-Budget submission and we are pleased the Government has continued to recognise how important it is to strengthen our aged care workforce,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

“The additional home care packages are welcome, but we need to ensure we have the workforce capacity to deliver on this promise.

“Tonight’s Budget provides funding for those parts of the health care system where there is the most disadvantage and need, including mental health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, rural and remote health care and preventive health.

“However, until the Government and the health care system enables Australia’s 385,000 nurses to be fully utilised, gaps will continue to exist.

“For example, the Budget includes additional funding for mental health support to help those impacted during COVID. Australia has a workforce of specialised mental health nurses. If they were able to provide care to the full scope of their practice and without having to be tethered to a medical practitioner for funding, our workforce capacity and patient outcomes would quickly improve.

“Similarly, in preventive health and rural health. Nurses provide a significant proportion, if not the bulk, of ongoing care for people with chronic conditions and who live in parts of Australia with poor access to doctors.

“Giving nurses and allied health professionals a greater role in the delivery of multidisciplinary, team based primary care under the Stronger Rural Health Strategy is a first step. ACN would have liked to see more initiatives like the $1.2 million for a nurse operated community health outreach program on Kangaroo Island.

“This year more than ever we have been faced with challenges that require innovative responses, and an investment in advanced practice nurses would have gone a long way to contribute to accessible and equitable health care in Australia.”


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