Mar 01, 2021

Government injects $452 million into aged care as final report released

Commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs with Governor-General

The government will spend almost half a billion dollars on immediate changes in aged care, after releasing the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The report includes 148 recommendations, starting with a new Aged Care Act that puts the resident at the centre of care.

In the report, titled ‘Care, Dignity and Respect’, royal commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO called for “fundamental reform” of the aged care system.

“The extent of substandard care in Australia’s aged care system reflects both poor quality on the part of some aged care providers and fundamental systemic flaws with the way the Australian aged care system is designed and governed,” they wrote. 

Recommendations include giving the power to prescribe psychotropic medication to psychiatrists or geriatricians with the aim of restricting their use in residential aged care, and for all aged care staff to have a minimum level of training, as there is in the childcare sector.

Pagone, who is chair of the royal commission, wrote in his preface that the aged care system is operating as it was intended to. 

The royal commission’s work was “complex and difficult” he said. As expected, Briggs and Pagone came up with different recommendations in some areas.

“We have reached different conclusions on some matters which may in part reflect our different perspectives, but it reflects also how we have differently seen and evaluated the vast amount of material we have considered and the accounts we have heard.”

“Life is to be lived”

In the conclusion of the report’s overview, Briggs writes, “Life is to be lived. No matter how old we are, how frail or incapacitated we might be, how rich or poor, we all have the fundamental right to wellbeing, enjoyment and fulfilment as we age. 

“In order for this aspiration to become reality, our aged care system must be founded on the principles of unfailing compassion—care, dignity and respect.”

Prime minister Scott Morrison said aged care is a personal story issue for many Australians, including himself and the Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Aged care “personal” for Australians

“It’s personal,” he said. “The care of those we love is personal.”

Morrison said his father spent his final moments in aged care, and he will be “forever grateful” for the care his father received at that time.

Morrison said the royal commission had been a “harrowing” process and the royal commission’s report lays down a “very important road” to establishing generational change.

Morrison said Australia’s aged care system had not adequately evolved in 30 years. “The basic paradigm needs to change”, he said.

The immediate extra funding will go to:

  • Immediate additional funding of around $760 for aged care residents in metropolitan residential aged care, and $1,145 for residents in rural, regional and remote areas.
  • $90 million for a Viability Fund to help facilities facing financial challenges.
  • $92 million to create over 18,000 places for aged care workers by mid-2023.
  • $30.1 million to strengthen aged care governance providers.
  • $32 million will be allocated to enhancing the capacity of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and greater regulation around the use of restraints in care.
  • Invest more than $18 million to enhance oversight of the Government’s Home Care Packages Program to reduce administrative fees and the incidence of fraud.
  • A Senior Restraint Practitioner will be appointed to the Commission to lead an education campaign for the sector and general practitioners, to minimise the use of restraint, and bring practice into line with those in the disability sector.

Hunt also confirmed that the government will immediately begin to replace the Aged Care Act 1997, providing a new foundation to enable the necessary reforms to be implemented and drive cultural change with a focus on responding to the needs of older Australians.

No justification to do nothing

Pagone quoted Uncle Brian Campbell who appeared before the royal commission. Campbell asked one last question at the end of his appearance.

“I’ve sat with Royal Commissions into deaths in custody. I’ve sat with the Bringing Them Home hearing; right? And out of all of them hardly anything gets done, and is this one going to be the same?” he asked.

“In this report we present different mechanisms through which we see how the system can be fundamentally improved. Our disagreement about the best way for improvement to be achieved is not a justification for doing nothing,” Pagone concluded.

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  1. R. N. In aged care facility for 12 yrs in regional area(50 yrs in nursing) unless there is more educated care staff to take the brunt of the care of our elderly the insidious deterioration and neglect will continue. Care of the elderly and private business can never be in same sentence. As residents are coming to facility older with medical problems and cognitive decline staff ratio are imperative as more time per resident has escalated. Fear of litigation is what rules the r. N time and the clinical care is secondary, no wonder weight loss,falls,pressure area care , personal care are increasing and out of control. Please don’t put a bandaid on the gaping wound.

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