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6 September 2023

Navigating Australia’s Mandatory Care Minute Mandate in Aged Care: Implications for Operators

The Australian Government is ushering in a significant transformation in the aged care sector with the introduction of mandatory care minutes, set to take effect on October 1, 2023. This groundbreaking policy shift is a response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report from 2021, which highlighted the critical role of staffing levels in ensuring the quality of care for older Australians living in government-funded residential aged care facilities. In this article, we will delve into the details of this mandate and explore how it will impact aged care facility operators.  Additionally, we will explore how Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) can play a crucial role in automating care activities, tracking them, and optimising staffing to assist operators in meeting these new requirements. 

Understanding Care Minutes  

First and foremost, it’s essential to grasp the concept of care minutes. Care minutes pertain to the amount of care time provided to older Australians residing in government-funded residential aged care facilities. This care can be administered by various healthcare professionals, including registered nurses (RNs), enrolled nurses (ENs), and personal care workers (PCWs) or assistants in nursing (AINs), commonly known as nursing assistants. 

The introduction of mandatory care minutes comes on the heels of the Royal Commission’s findings, which underscored the significance of adequate staffing in delivering high-quality care. To address this, the Commission recommended establishing a minimum care minutes responsibility, tied to a casemix-adjusted funding model, such as the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC).  

RN, EN, and PCW/AIN Care Contributions  

Registered Nurses (RNs) provide specialised nursing care, encompassing complex patient assessments, care plan development, and the evaluation of care. Enrolled Nurses (ENs) deliver nursing care as delegated by RNs, which may involve patient assessments, wound management, and administering prescribed medications. Lastly, Personal Care Workers (PCWs) or Assistants in Nursing (AINs) assist residents with their daily living routines and perform tasks delegated by nurses. 

The range of care provided by these professionals is crucial in ensuring the safety and quality of care for residents in aged care facilities. It’s essential to note that specific activities carried out by these care workers can be counted as care minutes. For more detailed information on these activities, you can refer to the Care Minutes and 24/7 Registered Nurse Responsibility Guide. 

Mandatory Responsibilities 

The initial care 200-minute targets will become mandatory on October 1, 2023. This means that all residential aged care facilities will be required to meet these targets to ensure the delivery of adequate care to their residents. Furthermore, these targets will increase to a mandatory sector-wide average of 215 minutes per day, including 44 minutes of RN time, starting from October 1, 2024. A crucial aspect of compliance with these mandates is accurate reporting. 

Care Minutes Reporting 

Accurate reporting of care minutes is paramount to ensuring compliance with the new regulations. Eligible staff who can contribute to care minutes reporting include registered nurses (RNs), enrolled nurses (ENs), and personal care workers (PCWs)/assistants in nursing (AINs). It’s important to note that RNs and ENs must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. 

Conversely, care minutes do not encompass the time spent by allied health staff, lifestyle and recreational staff, or other aged care staff involved in catering, hotel services, facility and room cleaning, maintenance, and gardening. These activities fall outside the scope of care minutes reporting but are covered by government funding through AN-ACC, which includes funding for allied health and lifestyle services in addition to care minutes funding. 

Efforts are being made to improve the collection of care minutes data in the Quarterly Financial Report (QFR) and the Aged Care Financial Report. These reports play a critical role in assessing compliance and funding allocation. 

Compliance and Data Quality Assurance 

To ensure the accuracy and integrity of care minutes data, the government has initiated a program of quality activities. Beginning in 2023-24, the Department will monitor care minutes and 24/7 RN data reported by providers. This involves cross-checking the information submitted in the QFRs, the Aged Care Financial Reports, and 24/7 RN reporting against other data sources. Providers found to be reporting incorrectly may face appropriate action. 

It’s important to note that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) is responsible for regulating workforce-related responsibilities, including the 24/7 RN responsibility, which came into effect on July 1, 2023, and the mandatory care minute responsibility starting from October 1, 2023. The ACQSC will use care time and 24/7 RN data to support their regulation of these responsibilities. 

The way forward 

The introduction of mandatory care minutes in Australia’s residential aged care facilities represents a significant shift in the industry. Operators are faced with the challenge of meeting these new care minute targets while ensuring high-quality care for their residents. The heightened demands of record-keeping and administrative tasks necessary for ensuring compliance with legislation should not be underestimated. To navigate this evolving landscape successfully, aged care facility operators should consider implementing innovative solutions like Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) and Location-Based Services (LBS). 

RTLS and LBS solutions offer a lifeline, addressing the substantial pain points associated with the labour-intensive administration and record-keeping tasks that have burdened operators for years. These technologies streamline the process of automating and tracking care activities, ensuring the precise recording and reporting of care minutes. By doing so, they empower operators to efficiently optimise staffing levels and allocate resources judiciously, thereby enhancing resident care and ensuring strict compliance with government mandates. It’s at this crucial juncture that Progility Technologies steps in, ready to support you in this pivotal transition with our proven LBS and RTLS solutions. 

In this era of transformative change in aged care, staying ahead of the curve with technology-driven solutions can make all the difference in delivering the highest standard of care to Australia’s older population. As the industry embraces this new era, operators should explore how innovative technologies can complement their efforts in meeting the mandatory care minute responsibility and, more importantly, in enhancing the well-being of their residents. 

As the October 1, 2023, deadline approaches, aged care facility operators must act swiftly to align their operations with the new care minutes requirements. By leveraging technology and embracing change, they can continue to provide the exceptional care that older Australians deserve.