The skill level of residential aged care facility staff must be bolstered to ensure residents have access to better health care, an Austin Health led study has found.
Published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, the study also revealed that residents have less-than-optimal access to medical care, especially GPs.
Lead author and Austin Health geriatrician Sanka Amadoru says both factors are contributing to avoidable transfers of residents to hospitals for conditions that might be better and more safely managed at their aged care facility.
“These conditions range from simple procedures such as changing of catheters, to acute illnesses,” Dr Amadoru says.
The research analysed factors affecting use of Austin Health’s Residential InReach (RIR) service. The geriatrician led service that offers more than fifty local residential aged care facilities assessments by a visiting geriatrician and/or senior nurse, acute interventions and telephone advice. The study’s objective was to investigate decision-making around hospital transfer and/or referral of residents to the service from the perspectives of residential aged care staff, GPs and registered nurses.
Dr Amadoru says the results show a new approach is urgently needed to improve healthcare delivery for a cohort of residents that are older, more frail and chronically ill than ever before.
“Unfortunately we have a situation where there are greater numbers of increasingly frail people in residential care, with fewer registered nurses and an overall decrease in average facility staff skill sets, combined with inadequate access to timely GP care,” Dr Amadoru says.
”Residential InReach services have been introduced to try and plug the gap, with success within resourcing constraints. However, a more carefully-designed, comprehensive response is needed to tackle the growing needs of people living in residential care, now and in the future.”
Dr Amadoru says the quality of nursing care in facilities and access to timely and appropriate medical care, especially scheduled GP visits, seem to be key factors affecting patients being transferred to hospital emergency departments and inpatient wards, where they run the risk of significant distress and medical complications.