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Aged care focus should be on funding, workforce: Shorten

Australia’s aged care system is “in a fundamental state of crisis” but a royal commission into the issue may not be necessary, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says.

Shorten would not rule out a push for a commission, but said the national focus should instead be on supporting staff and funding the sector.

“We are setting our aged care system up to fail when we don’t properly fund it nationally,” he told reporters in Adelaide on Tuesday.

Shorten was first asked whether he would support calls for a royal commission on Monday night’s episode of the ABC’s ‘Q and A’ program, which was broadcast from a suburb north of Adelaide.

The question was asked by Stewart Johnson, whose mother was one of the residents at the now-closed Oakden aged care facility.

Findings of maladministration were made against five people over several failings at the centre, which accommodated elderly people with mental health issues.

Shorten replied he was “fired up” about the issue and would consider a royal commission.

“I can’t cavalierly announce it, but what I’m trying to convey to you is ‘I think you’ve got a point’,” he said.

But during a visit to an Adelaide primary school on Tuesday, Shorten said he was “not convinced” of the need for a commission.

“I think that the nation does know a lot of what we need to do,” he said.

“We need to make sure we’ve got qualified staff, we need to make sure there’s career paths for [the] aged care workforce, we need to put more money into it.”

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3 comments

  1. Whilst the happenings at Oakden – and a few others that have been exposed since then – were horrific, I am concerned that the focus not only be on abuse and severe neglect. I think there is a more pervasive problem – and more insidious because it is less obvious – across much of the aged care sector. My Dad is one of our “better” not-for-profit homes, but for the last 5 months we have been paying a private carer to assist Dad with eating and drinking one meal a day – we do the other main meal. We’re doing this because Dad nearly died of dehydration following an illness, and the home had no hydration regimen of any kind – and did not have enough staff to give him frequent drinks and smaller, more frequent meals. Since we have been ensuring good hydration and nourishment for 2 meals a day, Dad is in better physical and mental health than he was before the illness, confirming our suspicions that this was not happening when we were not there. Overseas stats suggest up to 40% of aged care residents could be chronically mildly dehydrated, which leads to all sort of problems – increased cognitive impairment and confusion, more falls, constipation, skin problems, etc. I think it’s important that this level of problem is not lost in the horrific.

    • Very well said. I have been a Provider (CEO) and also on the other side with my mother in law. I am appalled at the decline in quality care that I have witnessed- the poor skills of staff (not properly trained), poor understanding of the elderly with complex care needs and just lack of empathy. Lack of funding has led to low staff levels but also a reduction in the quality of staff due to such low salaries and low expectations of proprietors- profit and not for profit. It is exactly as you describe and this is widespread-

  2. I have been writing to every politician of all political persuasion for the past six years. Bill Shorten has not escaped my notice either, but, as most of the many I communicated to with concerns for an Aged care system that is not sustainable and in need of reform I have been ignored. Bill Shorten is unfortunately one of these. From his own lack of reply and evidenced own actions I can only assume that he will say what ever is required when confronted by a family member such as on Q.A but when in another forum talk his way out. I am not alone when I say I am sick and tired of empty political careerists of ALL persuasions being given by the people via preference deals etc… power positions, impotently wasting the opportunity to do anything because it might effect their pay packets and ego’s. A Royal commission is required in the Aged Sector. If not BILL you are as bad as the current Government of the day that said “nothing to see here in the banking system”. Grow some courage and lead! It should never be elder needs Vs business profits and there should not be one single day of an elder enduring anything that erodes their quality of life!! Social justice is to be proud of and to work tirelessly to maintain. Isn’t that what elders before us sacrificed so that all would share in a good and just life? If you of all people Bill have forgotten what your party stands for and all the elders that now need you to put them at the forefront and be the main focus then I say you do not deserve to be Prime Minister. I have not heard one single politician that deserve this position so I guess sadly you can rest assure Bill, unfortunately you are not alone.

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