House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Aged Care

11:54 am

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I want to start by acknowledging the member for Robertson's credentials in the medical profession, which provide him with an experience and understanding of the importance of qualified health care and a firsthand appreciation of nurses and the critical role they play, not just in hospitals but across all health and aged-care services. I thank him for recognising our nurses right across the country. Whilst I respect the member for his previous work, what the member for Robertson has not done is run a business, and his opening address has shown a lack of consideration for the implications that a shortage of available workforce and soaring inflation have had on any business, regardless of the types of goods or services that it provides.

The provision of quality care at meaningful levels is paramount. To support our increasingly aging population, we need to do this. But the current 24/7 burden is quickly pushing regional aged care facilities to the brink of closure. We know that centres around the country have already begun to close under the strains, with reports of over 30 already shutting their doors since the announcement was made. Interestingly, these 30 have predominantly been in peri-urban and metro settings, locations that have better workforce access than the regions. But we've ready seen the writing on the wall, and many have left.

Further compounding the issue is the negative rate of growth when it comes to available beds in regional areas and inadequate growth even in the metro areas, compared to our aging population projections. In Cowper alone we have waiting lists in the hundreds to get into our local aged-care facilities, and yet, as reported in the Australian just this morning:

Residential facilities in the major cities added just over 1200 beds in the past financial year, which is barely half the average pace of the past five years.

The number of beds in outer regional Australia has also gone backwards, with 86 fewer beds in remote areas in the 12 months to mid-2023 compared to an average annual growth of 116 beds over the five years.

We have an ever-growing aging population, and, as a result of this government's actions, we have a shrinking bed rate. The article goes on to explain that new staffing requirements are discouraging successful 'providers to expand their services due to a shortfall of available workers'. Of further concern is the sectors uncomfortable predicament that more than half of the aged-care facilities are actually operating at a loss, meaning they have no ability to apply for loans to physically build and expand their operations.

This isn't an opinion piece; this takes into account the advice of industry heavyweights, and, in my own electorate, I'm hearing the same words from the smaller regional providers that service the Mid North Coast, providers like Nambucca Valley Care Group, who are recognised as one of the gold-standard providers in New South Wales. John Butler, the NVC Group CEO, has told me his concerns about the quality and standard of their facilities in years to come. NVC's buildings are aging and in need of upgrades and expansion to cope with the increasing client base, but, due to the sector's dwindling profitability and the impact of inflation, John is unable to put up a business case to acquire the further funds needed. NVC Group recognised the future issues early on, and 10 years ago they created a college onsite that offers a certificate III in individual support in order to train and retain local stuff, but it's not enough as enrolments have been on the decline since COVID. And this is the case across the board in the industry.

I recognise that the coalition instigated the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It brought with it a number of recommendations, and I do acknowledge that this government is attempting to implement many of those, but, as we so commonly see from this government, there are changes introduced in knee-jerk fashion without proper consideration, and we need to look at this in detail. (Time expired)


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