Thursday, 20 September 2018
I feel so sorry for my friend the member for Flynn! I saw a headline on my Twitter feed this week. I was shocked but not surprised. It said there was a fear that stocks in listed aged-care providers would be adversely affected by the proposed royal commission into aged care. There has been a 177 per cent increase in serious risk notifications issued by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency in the past year. A serious risk notice is issued if an aged-care home fails to meet one of the industry's 44 standards and there is evidence the failure puts, or may put, the safety, health or wellbeing of a resident at risk. Billions of dollars have been cut from aged care in the last five years by the Liberal government. Mr Morrison, the Prime Minister, cut almost $2 billion in his first year as Treasurer. As a direct result, the system is in crisis and, sadly, the standards in the care of older Australians have begun to slip under the weight of these cuts. The royal commission needs to examine the impact of the Liberals' years of cuts. You do not fix aged care by cutting it. Labor has been saying this for a long time.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that, over the last two years, my electorate office has heard from hundreds of constituents with regard to issues they or their families have had with the aged-care system. Diana from Bridport has been in regular contact with me, expressing her frustration that the My Aged Care website indicates that there are more than 80 service providers in her area—more than in Hobart—when, in fact, there are only a handful that operate in north-east Tasmania. I've also been speaking to Malcolm, who regularly visits a friend, Neil, in an aged-care facility in Launceston. Neil is recovering from a broken hip and requires physiotherapy as part of his recovery. Malcolm was horrified to learn that the only way Neil could get access to this treatment was to pay $75 per hour for a private physiotherapist. This is because the facility where Neil is a resident no longer had the funding to offer physiotherapy and other allied health services to its residents.
I've heard from spouses of aged-care residents who sit with them all day. They are afraid to leave them alone because the level of care available to them does not seem sufficient. I've also recently spoken to Michael, after the facility where his mother is a resident tried to increase her accommodation fees by 60 per cent following a refurbishment. It was only after the issue was raised with my office that the facility offered to waive the increased fees just so long as Michael and his family kept the arrangement confidential. How many other residents of this facility are paying these increased fees unnecessarily? Not everyone has family to advocate for them like Michael's able to do for his mother.
What about the pressure that these cuts are placing on staff? Last month, I met with a constituent, an aged-care worker, who told me about the problems with staffing arrangements in residential aged-care facilities. This worker was assaulted by a resident, a dementia patient, who had become agitated and aggressive. There were only two staff rostered on that night, and the situation rapidly became unmanageable. My constituent suffered injury and trauma as a result of the incident. Her mental health is suffering and she's not able to return to work.
Labor's called on the government to immediately implement the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce's report, A matter of care. The aged-care workforce is expected to increase by 300 per cent in the next 30 years. The government must work with unions and aged-care providers to implement this strategy to meet growing demand. This is a matter of utmost importance to the Australian community.
I'm very pleased to recognise that the government has seen, somewhat belatedly, the necessity for the royal commission to proceed, but this royal commission must shed further light on the pressures within the aged-care system. It's not enough for the government to claim that it's delivering increased funding year after year, all the while cutting the Aged Care Funding Instrument, which directly affects the amount of services that are available to a particular facility. We have national papers reporting in articles the fact that the aged-care system is on life support. I don't want our elderly to be regarded as simply being on life support. They deserve a proper standard of care and a decent quality of life.