House debates

Monday, 20 March 2023

Private Members' Business

Aged Care

12:11 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Development) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the motion by the honourable member for Forrest. In particular, I call attention to the University of Technology Sydney Ageing Research Collaborative report, which strikes home at issues raised with me by leadership at many aged-care facilities in Mallee. These issues largely centre around care minute requirements and the lack of registered nurses to meet expedited requirements legislated by the Labor government. The report states that meeting the incoming mandated standards will require an additional 6,922 full-time registered nurses in Australia by 1 July. Meanwhile, at Senate estimates the Department of Health and Aged Care said that an additional 10,000 to 14,000 nurses would be required to fulfil the care requirements due to come into effect by October this year. Less than five per cent of aged-care homes currently have the required direct care workforce needed to fulfil the requirements that will be placed on them. It's astounding: 95 per cent of homes will need to find more staff. And as we know, the workforce is already thin.

It is an impossible situation. These figures highlight a serious issue that is only going to get worse over time. Mallee aged-care residential facilities have certainly made it loud and clear to me. Facilities such as Dimboola's Allambi Elderly People's Home, which sadly has had to close recently for this reason. Or Minyip's Dunmunkle Lodge and Donald's Johnson-Goodwin Memorial Home, who have both communicated the issues that they are having. And facilities such as Maryborough's Havilah Hostel, another community institution of over 160 beds that is also facing troubled waters. Two out of three residential facilities around Australia are unviable, and the closer we get to the deadlines this Labor government has determined, the more pressure will be applied.

I have been working closely with Mallee aged-care facilities and their communities, listening to their concerns and writing to the ministers concerned, with little to no understanding reporting. In Dimboola, before the closure of Allambi, I faced an impromptu community meeting and delivered their petition to the Prime Minister from the many concerned residents of that town. I recently met with the chief executive of Dunmunkle Lodge, Peter Ballagh, and board member Andrew Clark, and talked through their situation, listening to their proposals as to how they could make their facility remain viable and sustainable. Recently I took the shadow minister for health, Senator Anne Ruston, to Maryborough, where we toured the Havilah Hostel and met with the board. I've been in contact with the federal Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, regarding Mallee aged-care facilities, and I would welcome her to visit them with me to see firsthand the reality of their situations.

So far the government has blatantly ignored concerns from both the coalition and the community that their expedited time frame could force aged-care homes to close because they just cannot access staff. This will either see residents sent to overburdened hospitals or see older Australians in rural and regional Australia forced to travel away from their local town to find a residential facility elsewhere, separating them from their families in the final years of their lives. This is simply un-Australian. We want and expect our older Australians to be well supported and cared for in their own communities. That is why in government the coalition called for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, to ensure oldest and most vulnerable Australians receive care that supports and respects their dignity, and that recognises the important contribution they have made to society. The final report of the royal commission made 148 recommendations, the product of compassionate scrutiny of Australia's aged-care system. In response, the coalition committed $19.1 billion to a five-year plan to improve aged care with new home-care packages, respite services, training places, retention bonuses and infrastructure upgrades. We listened to the experiences of Australians who gave evidence to the royal commission, and I thank each and every one of them.


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