Mar 20, 2023

Northern Territory’s new aged care facility falls short of growing demand

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The Northern Territory’s aged care system is at risk of reaching a tipping point as its ageing population grows at the fastest rate in Australia.

The NT Council of the Ageing Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sue Shearer, said it is a “crisis” and there is a “critical shortfall” in aged care beds for Territorians. Source: ABC News

Despite the announcement of a new 60-bed aged care facility, including 12 specialist dementia care places, Ms Shearer claimed this will still leave approximately 40 people waiting for a bed. 

“I’d say even with those 60 beds, there would be 40 people still waiting for beds, that’s how chronic the shortage is,” Ms Shearer said.

“Plus, we have the fastest-growing over-65 group in Australia.

“So we need, besides those 60 beds, and I commend the government for doing it, but we desperately need another nursing home.”

Additionally, the lack of emergency respite care and a shortfall of about 35,000 aged care workers to meet the current demand across the country poses a significant challenge for the Territory.

The new facility will be built in the Greater Darwin area, and while the 12 specialist dementia beds are a welcome addition, concerns remain regarding the existing need. 

The Northern Territory has no specialist dementia aged care facilities, and there are currently 835 people with dementia, according to census data. The announcement of this new facility provides an alternative for care, but Ms Shearer warns the Territory desperately needs another nursing home.

The new facility is part of the NT Government’s bid to increase the number of aged care beds, which were allocated last year but are only now being implemented. 

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles believes that this new facility will increase access to residential aged care beds for Territorians.

Carolyn Smith, Director of the Aged Care Workers Union, raised concerns over staffing the 60-bed facility. Ms Smith stated that it would require approximately 150 staff, posing a challenge since there is already a significant shortfall of aged care workers nationwide.

To overcome this challenge, Ms Smith suggested the NT Government should provide incentives to attract and retain aged care workers, including offering housing and other measures to aid workers in their move up north.

“Attracting those workers is going to be tough, and it’s going to have some extra challenges attracting those workers to the Northern Territory,” Ms Smith told ABC News.

While the new aged care home is a welcome addition, the shortfall in aged care beds, lack of emergency respite care, and shortage of aged care workers highlight the urgent need for a more comprehensive solution.

Failure to do so may lead to the Northern Territory’s aged care system collapsing under the strain of demand.

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