Oct 19, 2020

Are we missing our chance for aged care reform?


The government is moving too slowly to respond to the royal commission’s recommendations, and the shadow minister for aged care is concerned Australia could miss its chance for major reform.

Speaking at Leading Aged Services Australia’s (LASA’s) Ten Days of Congress, Julie Collins MP, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors, said she was “really concerned” the government is not moving quickly enough on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

In its report on aged care’s response to COVID-19, the royal commission recommended the government “immediately” fund providers to ensure aged care homes have enough staff to allow friends and families to visit and to deploy “accredited infection prevention and control experts” into aged care homes.

The commissioners gave the government a deadline of 1 December to report on its progress with these measures, but Ms Collins said she was “really concerned” the government isn’t moving quickly enough.

She said residents are feeling “lonely” and “isolated” without visitors, though she thanked staff for all they do to support residents in innovative ways, such as with technology.

“We’re still not ready for outbreaks”

“I am really concerned the government won’t be providing those staff on the ground to allow visitors into aged care to ensure that those health checks and those screenings can be done.

“I am concerned we won’t have enough infection control staff in Australia to be on the ground in residential aged care,” she said.

She said there are still concerns in the community that aged care homes are not prepared for outbreaks of COVID-19.

Preparing for royal commission’s recommendations

With the royal commission’s final report due in February, Ms Collins urged the government to prepare itself to respond quickly to the recommendations.

She said the community needs to maintain pressure on the government to ensure it responds quickly.

“Australians [should] stand up and support urgent action,” she said. “We need a groundswell of support to ensure that we do everything we can.”

“We can not give up the chance for major reform,” Ms Collins noted.

Nimble aged care to provide flexible care

Ms Collins said she’d like to see a “nimble” and “flexible” aged care system that would allow older Australians to receive care when and how they needed it. 

That they could move from one type of care to another, depending on their needs, for example, move from residential aged care to home care to hospital, depending on their needs.

Ageist attitudes

In line with the Congress’s theme of ‘respect’ for the day, Ms Collins said we must respect older Australians. 

Recent commentary suggesting Australia should let COVID-19 “rip” through the community is evidence of “ageism”, she suggested.

She said some say older Australians “are going to die anyway. It does matter.”

But Ms Collins said our community has stood up and said we should be doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially to vulnerable older people.

Respecting older people is about “humanity,” she said.

Ms Collins also said the aged care regulator lacks the resources and powers it needs to do its job.

“We need to do much much better,” she observed.

Doing their best in difficult circumstances

Ms Collins concluded by thanking all aged care staff for their important work, especially during COVID-19. 

They have been doing “the very best they can” in “incredibly difficult circumstances”, she said.

She also passed on her condolences for those who had lost loved ones during the pandemic.

Image: osko 25, iStock.

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