House debates

Monday, 20 March 2023

Private Members' Business

Aged Care

11:40 am

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that the Government:

(a) has failed to admit that the headline aged care promises they made to older Australians and their families, at the 2022 election, are negatively impacting aged care homes across Australia; and

(b) has blatantly ignored the Opposition's concerns that their expedited timeframe for aged care staffing requirements could force aged care homes to close because they cannot access staff, and cause older Australians from rural and regional Australia to travel miles away from their community to receive support; and

(2) further notes that:

(a) the University of Technology Sydney Ageing Research Collaborative report released in 2022 confirms that the Government's expedited requirements for aged care facilities will see homes closed down and older Australians abandoned;

(b) documents from the Department of Health and Ageing, recently released under freedom of information, reveal that 14,626 new workers and nurses will be required in 2023-24 and 25,093 the year after; and

(c) less than five per cent of the surveyed aged care homes currently have the required direct care workforce needed to fulfil the requirements that will be placed on them;

(3) acknowledges that the Government has failed to provide adequate support to assist aged care providers with the significant pressure of preparing for these incoming additional requirements in the midst of serious workforce shortages; and

(4) condemns the Government for making promises to older Australians and their families that it knows cannot be delivered.

All Australians want and expect our older Australians to be well supported and cared for in our community, including in residential aged-care homes. Just weeks ago, the Labor Minister for Aged Care's op-ed stated:

… older people in residential aged care will have access to a registered nurse 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Unfortunately, in a rush to tick and flick an election commitment, the Albanese government has failed to consider the practical reality of national workforce shortages in this area. The lack of registered nurses to meet the 1 July deadline is at a critical level in rural, regional and remote community aged-care facilities. This feedback comes directly from the aged-care providers in our electorates. They are desperately concerned as to how they will meet this requirement. Various reports show that the sector needs approximately 20,000 to 21,000 additional workers. A UTS report showed that less than five per cent of the surveyed aged-care facilities currently had the direct care workforce needed to meet the Labor government's 1 July deadline. Where does the Labor government plan for these nurses to come from?

The coalition has consistently and repeatedly raised concerns with the government regarding the capacity of the sector, particularly those in rural, regional and remote areas, to meet these mandatory workforce requirements. In Senate estimates last year, the government could not—or would not—give straight answers to the shadow minister for aged care. This was regarding just how many new staff were required to meet the 1 July regulation and what provisions are actually in place to support those great providers in our electorates who simply cannot meet this requirement in spite of their best efforts. Where will the additional registered nurses, enrolled nurses and care workforce come from in the midst of what is a significant nationwide labour shortage? Is the government planning to take staff from one health sector at the expense of another? I note that the WA state government's move to a one-to-four staff ratio during the day and a one-to-seven staff ratio at night in the health space will add to the demands on supplying staff in aged care.

We cannot afford to lose any of our aged-care providers, particularly those in rural, regional and remote areas. They are hanging on by their fingernails right now. Sixty-four per cent of facilities in major cities are operating at a loss, and that increases to around 70 per cent in regional, rural and remote facilities in our part of the world. In response to the aged-care royal commission, the coalition invested over $19.1 billion in aged care. In this space, the government has mentioned some exemptions for some facilities. I spoke to a provider in my electorate on Friday. They said it is just so difficult; the amount of time and cost in applying for and maintaining an exemption is extraordinary. There's additional time and cost and reporting. They simply cannot source the required number of registered nurses, in spite of their best efforts, both in Victoria and overseas. They're simply not available. They estimate that, at capacity, this facility will need another eight to nine full-time registered nurses. But where will they come from? It is difficult and expensive to attract suitably qualified overseas trained nurses. They've even used a third party to help source these nurses, subsidising the accommodation of those they can employ. This is already affecting their star rating and will have an even greater impact when those clinical care minutes apply from 1 July.

Will this mean that we'll start to lose more of our smaller facilities? We've got some quite small rural, regional and remote facilities, and they are already struggling to survive. That's something we know right now. What happens to our older Australians in those remote and regional communities if these aged-care homes have to close? I look at wonderful places in my part of the world, like the wonderful Tuia Lodge, with a relatively small number of people. They battle every day to provide those fabulous services to the people they love and care for. Hocart Lodge in Harvey does the same thing, as does Armstrong Village and Capecare in Dunsborough. I know in my colleague Rick Wilson's electorate of O'Connor there are significant issues facing the smaller aged-care provider in places like Katanning. These are the ones we are desperately concerned about, and we want to make sure our older Australians have the care they need.


No comments