Public Health Amendment (Registered Nurses in Nursing Homes) Bill 2016

11th May 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 12:00 :55 ): I acknowledge the student leaders who have joined us in the gallery. It is fabulous to see them here as part of the Secondary Student Leadership Program. I also acknowledge members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association and allied organisations who are here to support the Public Health Amendment (Registered Nurses in Nursing Homes) Bill 2016 that the member for Orange has introduced on behalf of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. I acknowledge the Government for suspending standing and sessional orders to allow more members to speak on this important bill. I thank the Minister for Health for that; it is greatly appreciated. This matter is at the heart of many people's concerns and it has been debated for some time.

I note that having a Shooters, Fishers and Farmer Party member in the House has been quite disruptive already. I acknowledge the member for introducing a bill that has recently been debated and passed in the upper House. Whilst I am not making any claims of being contemporary, I worked as a nurse until 2004 having spent 26 years at Morisset Hospital as a psychiatric nurse working in developmental disability and in aged care for a period. My wife is a registered nurse and has worked at Wyong Hospital. She is now back at Morisset. Apart from my personal experience, I am exposed to these issues in other ways. Many of my friends work in the sector. In addition, over the years many constituents have made representations to me about the care of their elderly mums, dads, aunts, uncles or friends. Most of us will move into aged care at some stage.

I will make my contribution short because there is limited time for everyone to speak. Although the Minister extended this debate, there will still not be enough time for everybody to say what they want to say. I will be supporting this bill. I trust that it will be put to a vote today. This is an extremely important matter. I am concerned that the standards we expect in aged care in New South Wales are being lessened. I have heard Government members speak about their concerns over the impact this bill would have on the number of registered nurses available to staff these facilities and the cost it might impose on small facilities. I would say that is an irrelevant and inaccurate representation of what the bill is trying to achieve. It is certainly not seeking to impose a requirement that registered nurses be on duty 24/7 at smaller, not-for-profit facilities.

Mr Kevin Humphries: It is.

Mr GREG PIPER: It is certainly not doing that. It is about providing registered nurses in places that have patients with high-care needs. People in aged-care facilities who might not immediately be recognised as having high-care needs will probably drift into needing that level of care at some stage. A whole host of things happen in our final days. It is a complex time of life. A registered nurse has the skills, qualifications and necessary experience to recognise many of the subtle signs that need to be picked up early if they are to be addressed. I am not diminishing the role of assistants in nursing or enrolled nurses; however, we expect there to be a person with a much greater understanding and higher ability to detect serious symptoms at an early stage. Once the signs are detected, registered nurses can engage with appropriate medical staff and administer care as needed.

Additionally, having a registered nurse on duty along with assistants in nursing and enrolled nurses as mandated by this legislation will raise the standards and skill sets of everyone working in a facility. The fact is without a registered nurse in place the skill set of staff can sometimes flatten or decrease, which means everybody misses out. There is great benefit in having a registered nurse on duty not only to meet the specific needs of an aged-care client but also to raise standards and skills across the board.

I believe this bill is sensible and supportable. If the Government had concerns it would have been appropriate that it intervened earlier. While Government members decry the fact that the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party did not knock on their door to discuss this with them, the fact is this bill was introduced into the other place nearly a year ago and was debated just last week. This is not a new bill. The Government has many more resources than minor parties to do things like this bill, which came about following recommendations by a parliamentary committee. Finally, for the Government to criticise the simplicity of any bill is outrageous. This is a simple bill because it deals with a simple concept. If the Government thinks that a bill is made better by its complexity and number of pages that is a sad outcome. Let us focus on the issue, which is people's concern for their loved ones, and provide a registered nurse 24/7 at those times when a higher level of care is needed. I support the bill.

Website: Read full Parliamentary debate

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