House debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019


Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport; Report

6:13 pm

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I present the committee's revised report on the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

by leave—The advisory report on the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018 follows on from the detailed work the committee undertook in the area of aged care in its October 2018 report as part of its inquiry into the quality of care in residential aged care facilities in Australia.

In recent times, instances of mistreatment have brought attention to the quality of care provided in residential aged-care facilities. The need to ensure that older Australians have access to high-quality residential care has prompted the committee to inquire into the conditions in Australian aged-care facilities.

Our first report identified the types of serious concerns which have led to the government establishing a royal commission into the aged-care sector. I note that this report is being tabled a day after the proceedings of the commission commenced, and we look forward to the outcomes of its work.

The committee recommends the passage of this bill, as its intention is to increase consumers' access to information about staffing in aged-care facilities.

This aligns with the findings of the committee's aged-care inquiry report, which highlighted that the provision of an appropriate number of staff is a critical component of the delivery of quality aged care. In our first report, the committee noted that the number of registered nurses employed, for example, in the aged-care sector, has declined over the last 15 years, despite the increase in the number of aged-care residents and the acuity of their health needs.

The committee, therefore, welcomes moves to increase transparency and assist consumers to make informed decisions regarding aged-care facilities.

During the inquiry concerns were raised that the publication of staffing ratios without contextual information and other quality measures would not provide consumers with a reliable or useful tool to assess different facilities.

The committee agrees contextual information should be developed by the Department of Health. Staffing ratios are not the sole determinant of the quality of aged-care services, and the profile and needs of aged-care centres will differ, in some cases markedly.

However, this should not become a hindrance to greater transparency and more meaningful consumer information. Residents and their families deserve access to this type of information about facilities which will effectively become their home for the remainder of their lives.

The committee reiterates that the publication of staffing ratios is not the only necessary improvement to the protections provided for older Australians living in aged-care facilities.

The committee anticipates the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will provide an opportunity to strengthen safeguards and enhance the quality of care provided to older Australians.

There have been many recent inquiries into the aged-care sector, so I would particularly like to thank the organisations and individuals who provided evidence to this inquiry. The continued engagement of so many organisations and individuals highlights both the importance of this issue and the passion and commitment of those who seek to improve Australia's aged-care sector.

Finally, I would like to thank my fellow committee members, including the member for Mayo, whose bill is the subject of this report and who joined the committee as a supplementary member for the course of the inquiry. I also record my thanks to the staff of the committee for their support and consideration of the bill. The committee system would struggle without the dedication and professionalism of the staff who work for it.

I commend the report to the House.

6:17 pm

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I would like to speak very briefly to echo the comments of the member for North Sydney. It was very pleasing to see the advisory report in relation to the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018 recommend that it be passed subject to minor amendments that would strengthen the support and aim of the bill. That's the purpose of having committee work—to make sure that we improve draft legislation that we have before the House.

One of the suggested amendments calls for separate categories for residential facilities based on resident acuity levels, which would mean that consumers would compare like with like, depending on the level of care required. The committee also proposed that a further review occur within 12 months to monitor both the administrative impact of the ratio reporting scheme and to question whether even more detailed information should be included. For example, it may be appropriate to expand the information to be reported to include staffing ratios on weekends and shifts. The suggested amendments will mean that consumers will be able to make a meaningful comparison between aged-care providers, and that has my full support.

I'm open to working with both the government and the opposition—the whole of the parliament—and I'm looking forward to discussing this bill with the minister and shadow minister this fortnight. I accept that disclosure of staffing ratios, as referred to in the committee's report, is only a first step, and we have much to do to improve aged care for, as the member for North Sydney said, it will be people's last home in their lifetime. This is an important first step and one the community expects. I commend the work of the committee. I'm very grateful that I was allowed to join the committee for a short period of time. I would like to acknowledge the great work of the committee secretariat, including Stephanie Mikac, the secretary.