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16 Sep 2018


Public consultation on the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into the Aged care Sector has closed, but the Government continues to seek the views of the medical community.

Public submissions will be accepted by the Commission itself once it has begun, but as yet the nation does not know the parameters the Government will set for what is expected to be a far reaching and extensive inquiry.

The AMA has welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to launch a Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety, and has stressed that it must consider staff ratios.

In its formal submission to the consultation, the AMA has urged the Commission to consider introducing a registered-nurse-to-resident ratio at all aged care centres.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has written personally to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling for the ratio to be included.

“The aged care system is in crisis and there have been too many cases of abuse and neglect to ignore,” Dr Bartone wrote.

“Many of these cases involve inadequate clinical care. There is a lack of registered nurses with aged care experience who would provide the clinical governance, oversight, and leadership required in these facilities.

AMA members report that one of the major reasons they either will not visit, or anticipate ceasing visiting residential aged care facilities, is the lack of access to nurses in the aged care workforce, and the problems that devolve from this.”

The ABC’s Four Corners program’s two-part investigation into the treatment of older Australians in aged care homes has exposed numerous flaws in the system – with far too many tragic and unacceptable results.

Dr Bartone has pointed out though that the AMA has for many years voiced serious concerns about the care being given to older Australians, and the lack of resourcing to a sector that provides care to people who deserve special support at a vulnerable time in their lives.

“The AMA has long called for reform of the aged care sector,” Dr Bartone, a GP in Melbourne who regularly visits residential aged care facilities, said.

“There is a serious lack of resources. There is a serious lack of staff. And there is a serious lack of coordination between all the sectors involved in caring for older Australians."

The AMA President said it was a certainty the Royal Commission will uncover uncomfortable and distressing stories, and systemic failures.

“There must be proper planning to ensure that medical, nursing, and other specialised care are built into the design and operation of aged care facilities,” he said.

“The AMA hopes that the Royal Commission will give victims a voice, and lead to real reform of a sector that has been woefully neglected for decades.

“We need to see the ‘care’ put back into aged care."

The Royal Commission is expected to investigate the quality of care in private and Government-run aged care homes following the exposure of cases of neglect, elder abuse, and a lack of staff.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said he acknowledged the reporting and concerns raised by the public.

“The Government’s commitment to safe, quality, compassionate, flexible and affordable aged care services for our senior Australians is absolute,” Mr Wyatt said.“Incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care simply cannot be explained or excused. We must be assured about how widespread these cases are. 

“As a community we expect high standards for the quality and safety of aged care services and we share these expectations. 

“This Royal Commission will be about proactively determining what we need to do in the future to ensure these expectations can be met.

“Evidence to date shows that the problems are not restricted to any one part of the aged care sector, whether it is for profit or not for profit, large or small facilities, regional or major metropolitan. The Royal Commission will look at the sector as a whole, without bias or prejudice. It will make findings on the evidence.” 

The final terms of references will be determined in consultation with the community, including residents, their families, and care providers. They will include looking at young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care settings.

Shadow Aged Care Minister Julie Collins said the Royal Commission’s terms of reference must be broad.

“We don’t want to look just at the abuse and neglect, which has been horrific, but the consequences and the cause of that abuse and neglect,” she said.

“We need to look at workforce. We need to look at training and education of the workers. We need to look at the staffing mix in the facilities. And we need to look, in our view, long-term how it’s funded sustainably.

“I think we have to have an honest conversation with the Australian public about the aged care system and how it’s funded and what people's expectations are.”





Published: 16 Sep 2018