Aged Care Royal Commission Interim Report provides Government the mandate to commence transformation
Australians peak bodies COTA, NSA and Dementia Australia have congratulated the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on its “Interim Report: Neglect”.
The Report has recognised not only the neglect of older people within the aged care system, but also the neglect of successive Governments, that have failed to implement many recommendations from over 18 government inquiries.
COUNCIL ON THE AGEING
COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, welcomed the Royal Commissions’ confirmation that neglect, abuse and poor care are more widespread than governments and many providers have been prepared to accept.
He also welcomed the Royal Commission’s finding that aged care needs fundamental reform and redesign, indeed major transformation, for which COTA has repeatedly called.
Respect for older Australians a cornerstone of achieving better outcomes
“This cruel and harmful system must be changed. We owe it to our parents, our grandparents, our partners, our friends. We owe it to strangers. We owe it to future generations. Older people deserve so much more.
“We have found that the aged care system fails to meet the needs of our older, often very vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care for older people. It is unkind and uncaring towards them. In too many instances, it simply neglects them.”
“COTA agrees with the Royal Commission that older Australians should be more valued by the wider community. It’s not just about loving your grandparents, Australians need to also reach out as a community and support their elderly neighbours and fellow citizens, many of whom are still waiting to receive care they’ve been assessed as needing and won’t even be in the formal care system,” Mr Yates said.
“Part of this respect includes ensuring the Federal Government stops neglecting aged care when it comes to Budget decisions both in December’s MYEFO and the Federal Budget next May.
“If the government is taking the Royal Commission seriously and is also serious about respecting the many people and experts who have given their time to the process so far, then they cannot ignore this report and must commit more funds in the forthcoming MYFEO.”
While some actions will need to wait for the Final Report of the Commission in a year’s time, the Interim Report identifies urgent need to act in three areas.
Urgent injection of funds for Home Care Packages
Mr Yates said that the government must take on board the Royal Commission’s finding that home care waiting times over 12 months have created an “unsafe” system and must urgently inject funding of $2 – 2.5 billion per year to reduce the home care waiting time to acceptable levels.
“While the Government will need time to consider the total report, the inescapable message from the Royal Commission is that hundreds of millions of dollars are needed towards Home Care Packages – now, this year, not in 2020.
“COTA has repeatedly advocated that older Australians must not wait longer than three months for care and the Department of Health told the Royal Commission this would cost between $2-2.5 billion per annum to achieve,” Mr Yates said.
On a recent ABC Q&A program Minister Colbeck said that target should be no more than 60 days.
“Too many people are dying waiting for care or are being forced into residential aged care when they choose not to be there and should have real choices about where they live as they age. “
Reduce over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care now
The Royal Commission has also identified that the use of chemical restraints in aged care is shockingly widespread and immediate action can and must be taken to reduce the overuse of chemical restraint by providers and doctors.
“Within a few years, with an improvement in skills, clinical governance systems and staffing across aged care we believe it must be eliminated entirely,” Mr Yates said.
“The Government’s recent regulations on chemical restraint are a step forward but need improvement to ensure that chemical restraint is always a last resort, and used only for a short time,” said Mr Yates.
Confirm the timetable for removing Younger People with a Disability from Nursing Homes
COTA Australia backs the call from the Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance that Government should immediately adopt the Commission’s Report’s timeframes that no new young Australians should enter residential aged care from 2022, and that by 2025 all young Australians who do not wish to will no longer reside in aged care.
COTA commends the Commissioners
“The Commissioners must be commended for the way they have taken on board the many voices and experiences of people using aged care and their families in a system that views aged care as a transaction rather than a relationship or even care; is designed around process rather than good outcomes; and lacks transparency,” Mr Yates said.
“There are clear structural reforms that are needed but cultural change is absolutely critical as well, from the level of governance and senior management down.
“That includes looking at the way we view aged care as a profession. The Interim Report explains just how that workforce is under pressure, underappreciated and lacking in key skills.”
Mr Yates thanked the Commissioners for their time and effort in producing such a thorough report which shows great empathy for people accessing aged care and working in the sector.
“In particular, we record our appreciation of Commissioner Richard Tracey’s contribution to the Interim Report prior to his recent passing.”
NATIONAL SENIORS AUSTRALIA
National Seniors Australia, has welcomed the release of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Interim Report.
The report, titled Neglect, is a damning wake up call to the aged care sector and for the government to respond immediately to failings in care, health and safety.
National Seniors’ Chief Advocate Ian Henschke particularly welcomes the recommendation to act now and increase the number of home care packages.
“When you have more people waiting for home care than actually receiving it, you know you have a broken system.
“There are about 99,000 older Australians receiving home care right now and 120,000 on the waiting list and that’s just an abject failure by the government,” he said.
The commission heard that last year 16,000 older Australians died while waiting for a home care package.
Mr Henschke paid tribute to Commissioner, the late Richard Tracey, who co-authored the interim report before he died earlier this month from cancer.
“Commissioner Tracey is to be applauded for the work and his frankness in his investigation,” he said.
“The best way we can honour his legacy is to take heed of his advice in fixing a system which is letting down not just older Australians but their families as well.”
Mr Henschke said the government and industry could not afford to wait until next year’s recommendations from the Royal Commission before acting.
“Today signals a new dawn in the era of aged care.
“We have an opportunity now to serve the people who have served us throughout the years and they deserve much better than rotting in an aged care bed, with maggots feeding on festering sores,” he said.
The Interim Report, ‘Neglect’, has affirmed the key problems people living with dementia, their families and carers have consistently flagged through their own experiences.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said for many years people impacted by dementia have contributed to reviews, reports, advisory panels and committees, and they have also made significant contributions to the work of the Commission to date.
“This Interim Report has validated their shared concerns that systemic change is required, workforce capacity and culture needs serious attention and tackling age and other forms of discrimination is vital to ensure the future aged care system is able to support people impacted by dementia,” Ms McCabe said.
“Further, as the Report recommends, Dementia Australia urges the prioritisation of those areas flagged as requiring an immediate response rather than waiting for the handing down of the Final Report.
“An instant injection of funding to tackle the Home Care packages wait list of more than 120,000 people is crucial to so many people living with dementia, who are waiting to receive the support to which they are entitled.
“A coordinated and comprehensive approach to take decisive action to reduce the use of chemical and physical restraint is also essential.
“And urgent changes to the health system and residential aged care can also be introduced now to provide appropriate services and support for the 27,000 Australians living with younger onset dementia.
“Underpinning all of those things is a need for sufficient staff with adequate training to ensure safe and quality care for people living with dementia.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Interim Report: Neglect, Volumes 1, 2 and 3, is available at https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/Pages/interim-report.aspx
1 November 2019.