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Image: Mel Koutchavlis

Turnbull must rethink approach to aged care: ANMF

The newly minted Turnbull ministry has already come under fire for not including a designated minister for ageing or aged care.

Aged care has remained under the banner of Social Services in the Cabinet shake up. In announcing the appointment of Western Australian MP Christian Porter as replacement for Scott Morrison, who has moved from Social Services to Treasury, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made no reference to ageing or aged care.

Mitch Fifield, who until the reshuffle had been largely responsible for aged care as assistant minister for social services, has been shifted to the Communications and Arts portfolio. The role of an assistant social services minister was not included as part of the new government structure.

In a joint statement following the new Cabinet appointments, Labor shadow minister for ageing Shayne Neumann and shadow minister for aged care Helen Polley said that like Tony Abbott, Turnbull had displayed a “disregard for older Australians and inability to deal with the challenges of an ageing population”.

The pair also accused Turnbull of ignoring the pleas of aged-care peak bodies that had urged the appointment of a designated minister for ageing.

Following the Liberal leadership coup, Aged & Community Services Australia chief executive John Kelly led calls for such an appointment, citing the range of challenging social and economic dynamics that ageing involved. The ANMF this week joined the chorus of calls for a designated minister, saying the role was vital to solving a current shortage of nurses in aged care.

“In nursing homes across the country, it’s not uncommon to have just one registered nurse – with perhaps two personal care assistants – caring for up 100 residents, with increasingly complex care needs,” ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas said in a statement. “The dementia epidemic is growing and the nation’s Baby Boomers will be flood nursing homes over the next 20 years, yet the government continues to starve the sector of the funding required to ensure that elderly Australians receive the care they deserve."

The government was yet to respond publicly to the criticisms at the time of press.

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