Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
The member for Robertson's motion is an important one, and there were elements of the member for Corangamite's speech which I heartily endorse. People who are in their twilight years have paid their taxes, have worked hard and certainly deserve the very best of care. But it is a little bit like that 1981 Yes Minister episode, 'The compassionate Society', where Minister Jim Hackett is reminded of a hospital that is going so well. It's top of the pops on every parameter, but it's got no patients! And, indeed, as you look around regional Australia, many of the aged-care centres at the moment have fewer patients, fewer people and fewer aged-care residents simply because they can't find the staff and simply because they can't meet some of the expectations and requirements brought about by this Labor government.
The royal commission was important. We put it in place as a coalition government. Yes, some of the situations and some of the evidence was harrowing, to say the least. But you have a council-run aged-care centre in a little town such as Coolamon near Wagga Wagga, where they have had to close an entire wing, 11 beds, because they can't find the staff. Then you have this expectation from those opposite of 24/7 nursing. It just doesn't add up.
Indeed, we heard only today that a very high percentage—more than half—of aged-care centres across Australia are not making a profit—not making any money. At Adina Care Cootamundra I met with management, including chair Lee-Anne Hogan and board members Charlie Sheahan—who happens to be the local mayor—and Darryl Sedgwick. They are beside themselves about what they are going to do and how they are going to continue to provide the care, because they simply can't make ends meet.
At Cowra Retirement Village, known locally as 'Bilyara', chief executive officer Wayne Snelson is in exactly the same position as Cootamundra and Coolamon: they simply cannot find staff. They have great difficulty in making their books balance.
The aged-care facility at Harden Murrumburrah has been taken over—thank goodness—and seems to be back on its feet, but it was a struggle for a long, long time. As the local member, I fought hard and advocated for the retention of services there when the then owners, Southern Cross Care, decided they were closing up. It was—I am not overplaying it or overstating it—a tragic situation.
In recent times, Signature Care has opened up a marvellous, new, state-of-the-art facility at Turvey Park. Unfortunately, some of the staff members have come from other facilities in regional centres to work there. So that places a drain on those other smaller facilities in other smaller towns.
It is no mistake, no coincidence, that the speakers from the coalition on this motion are the members for Braddon, Wannon, Cowper and Mallee. They know—and I see the member for Gilmore here—and the people of the regions know what a crisis this is. Let's not play partisan politics about this: let's see what we can do together as parliamentarians to get the situation sorted. I appreciate that Minister Wells, who is responsible for aged care, has put conditions in there whereby aged-care centres can apply to put off the 24/7 nursing for a while. But the tsunami is coming, and it is coming to a regional town near you. It is coming to an aged-care centre or a retirement village near you.
It is so, so sad when we lose service and lose beds. In Coolamon's case, it was an entire wing. Those residents either have to be shipped off to somewhere else a long, long way away, or they just shut the doors and the people who have their names down can go to a facility in somewhere like Narrandera or elsewhere—many, many kilometres away. Their loved ones, if they still have a partner, then can't visit them. They lose touch with the community that they have been in for all of their lives. It is so sad. We need to do better. We need to do better as a parliament. The government certainly needs to do better on this, because this is a major problem in regional areas. I call on the government to do everything it can and to show compassion and to make sure that they get this situation sorted. (Time expired)