House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Aged Care

12:25 pm

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

As both the shadow assistant minister for regional health and as the member for Mallee I have been so concerned about the regional aged-care crisis that I facilitated a regional aged-care summit in Mildura on 6 July this year.

In 2018, the coalition government established the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to ensure our oldest and most vulnerable Australians receive the quality care they need and deserve. The royal commission recommended a registered nurse on duty 24-hours a day seven days a week in every aged-care facility across Australia by next July 2024. In a race for a headline, the Albanese Labor government mandated it earlier to 1 July 2023, a pledge they had to humbly admit they could not achieve, and hence exemptions are in place.

The 100 regional aged-care summit attendees from peak bodies and the coalface were all on board with delivering registered nurses 24/7 in aged care, but regional providers highlighted how hard this is to actually achieve in the context of the workforce crisis in regional Australia: 'The 24/7 registered nurse requirement creates a perverse decrease in care continuity by preferencing the employment of inexperienced agency RNs compared with personal-care assistants, enrolled nurses and endorsed enrolled nurses who have provided care for many years to residents in that same aged-care facility.' The summit highlighted that there was a cost premium to deliver aged care in regional Australia and the perverse financial incentives that prioritise care workers to practice in the public system.

The knock-on effect of Labor's rushed approach is evident in my electorate of Mallee, with Dimboola's Allambi Elderly Peoples Home closing its doors. Earlier this year, shadow minister for health and aged care, Anne Ruston, and I visited Maryborough's Havilah Hostel in my electorate amid fears of their closure. I'm pleased to say that advocacy for Havilah has paid off and they have received some federal funding to keep their doors open.

Earlier this year, in Queensland, Mount Morgan's Carinity Summit Cottages and Petrie Gardens Aged Care Service in Tiaro announced they were closing, displacing over 30 elderly residents. It is estimated that 30 aged-care facilities have had to close across this nation in Labor's reckless policy rush.

Let's reflect on the coalition's funding in aged care. In August 2021, the former coalition government funded $150 million in capital grants under the Aged Care Approvals Round, which in Mallee included $4.5 million for Princes Court Homes in Mildura; $4.66 million for Oasis Aged Care in Irymple in my patch; $4.96 million for Havilah in Maryborough, which I just spoke about; and $350,000 for the Cohuna Village. The 2021-22 budget included $396.9 million over five years for capital investment to enable aged-care providers to improve their buildings and build new services. In 2022, the coalition spent a further $35.3 million in multipurpose services programs to update and upgrade 110 aged-care sites, improving services in Robinvale and Manangatang in my patch. The coalition's 2022-23 budget committed $522 million in funding for aged-care reform, taking the total investment in response to the royal commission to $19.1 billion. By 2025-26, funding in aged care is estimated to grow to $34.7 billion.

In home care, the Liberals and Nationals increased new home-care packages by 357 per cent, from 60,000 under Labor in 2012-13 to 275,597 in 2024-25. The regional aged-care summit highlighted, again, the regional cost premium to deliver home-care services. Packages cannot fully deliver what recipients need, due to workforce shortages. The summit recommended a regional travel supplement to address the city-country divide. The summit also recommended a growth funding round for the Commonwealth Home Support Program to enable more providers to enter the regional market.


No comments