Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Improved Home Care Payment Administration No. 2) Bill 2020; Second Reading
Given that the member for Lalor often has to correct people on how to pronounce the name of her own seat, she won't take offence. She will take the point of order, but she will say again that the member of Higgins, who spoke before me on this piece of legislation, failed to reference, even once, the royal commission into aged care or its interim report titled Neglect, and nor did she mention this government's failure to act on any recommendations from that interim report.
The home care package situation is absolutely critical. It's more critical now than it has been because, of course, we've had the pandemic and the enormous frustrations for all in the Victorian community around the residential aged-care system funded by the federal government and regulated by the federal government. And when you compare the federally funded and regulated aged-care sector in Victoria with the state based sector, you can see an absolutely glaring failure in a system—an absolute failure—where we had rampant infection rates. In my electorate, we have six residential aged-care facilities, and four of those aged-care facilities had COVID-19 infections. They weren't all catastrophic; one of the facilities that had infections managed to minimise it fairly quickly, got a very good plan in place and stopped the infections. But, overall, in my electorate there were 472 confirmed cases attached to aged care. There were 220 staff and 188 residents impacted. Of those 188 residents, there were 67 deaths. So I relish the opportunity to speak here on behalf of those families on this piece of legislation to remind those opposite that they have an enormous amount of work to do. I remind them that this suite of policies needs to address both residential aged care and home care packages—where 100,000 Australians are waiting, and where our elderly residents, when given a home care package, are often not given the level of care that they require.
I can speak with some recent experience in this space as someone who has an elderly mother who manages to live independently, and who broke her neck of femur in the middle of the pandemic crisis and spent some time in our public hospital sector. I take the time to thank two public hospitals, the Footscray Hospital and the Werribee Mercy Hospital, for the care that she received in both places under extraordinary circumstances, in a community with high transmission levels. But the point I want to make is that we have an aged-care sector now with lots of reputational damage and there is a lot of fear in the community, and not just from the elderly. My siblings and I—and there are eight of us, seven surviving—are all concerned about what those next steps are. We've got our mum home. She doesn't have a home-care package. She's one of the 100,000 Australians waiting for a home-care package. She does have a new bathroom, which we got fitted while she was in hospital. But our fear about her going into residential aged care is now acute, as is the fear across the community, particularly my community.
There's an enormous amount of work to be done here, and bringing in a piece of legislation that just tweaks a payment process for home-care-package providers is almost an insult to this parliament. It is almost an insult, after the year we've had, the figures we've seen, the numbers we know and the lives that have been damaged—the lives that have literally been limited because of an aged-care system that lacks resilience and because of a government that is ignoring an interim report from its own royal commission. It's ignoring the recommendation that every aged-care facility in this country should have an infection control specialist, after our local experience, where we had aged-care facilities without PPE on the ground to stop those infections and where we saw a facility with a 5½-week infection period. I can't put it more plainly than that. That is an absolute failure of the system. And I know that in Victoria, in my community, people are still anxious. We don't believe—rightly—that we're ready in case there's another outbreak in the other aged-care centres in my community, and that's a failure of this government.
We're here talking about a piece of legislation, brought in in February this year, which does some tweaking to the home-care-package payment system, and this government has failed to do the things the royal commission recommended it do, including transparency around the funding for home-care packages and residential aged care. It has failed to do the things that would lift the community's belief and faith in this sector, which is absolutely critical. We cannot afford for this system not to work; that's the bottom line. We can't afford a failure.
This government has a lot of work to do, and I suggest the members opposite who are going to speak on this bill today make sure they reference the things that they know the royal commission has asked them to take on board. I'm hoping that what I'm going to hear from the contributions of those opposite is a plan to fix the system in both home care and residential care.