The second day of the aged care royal commission threw up a few ageing stats and a few gripes in another day where the background problems are being laid bare for commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Richard Tracey.
On the first day, five witnesses were called, including Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) of NSW policy manager Paul Versteege, who slated a number of aged care advocacy groups.
But first up, witness Justine Louise Boland from the ABS briefed the room on the way our nation is ageing. We heard that a third of Australians aged 85 and over are in aged care, with the number of people aged 85 and over in our population set to more than double by 2066.
Furthermore, and likely to pique the interest of the Australian Government, the dependency ratio on those within the wage-earning population is also expected to grow. As it stands, for every 48 people who are wage earners, 52 people depend on them. By 2042 that figure will rise to 58 people for every 42 wage earners.
We also found out that of Australians aged 75-84, 20 per cent fill a script for antidepressants – that figure is as high as a quarter of women 75 and over.
Next up was Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) chief executive Craig Gear. He admitted that more could be done to advertise his outfit’s services, but added, surprisingly, OPAN is turned away when trying to educate the elderly on consumer rights.
“The majority are encouraging of their staff and themselves being educated about advocacy services,” Gear said. “However, we do encounter some resistance to us coming in, … we have times where people will ask us not to attend to deliver the education session and that’s a concern for us,” he said.
The most contentious moments of the day came from CPSA’s Versteege. He used his time before the commission to take a number of workforce and advocacy groups to task for putting the providers above consumers, first taking aim at the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA).
“Initially the membership of the National Aged Care Alliance was numerically dominated by aged care providers and we believe it still is dominated by aged care providers,” he said.
“At one point NACA had a direct line into government, to the office for the Minister for Aged Care, and our concern has been and still is that an organisation, an alliance, that is dominated by a certain interest group will necessarily push those interests above all others.”
He also took aim at the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce, believing that the exclusion of the unions is counterproductive to sector improvements. And as for the Aged Care Sector Committee, he said that again they do not have residents’ interests at heart.
He said: “The Aged Care Sector Committee is there to guide government policy-making, reform, and it is again dominated, we feel, by aged care providers. There’s a membership of 15 and practically all of them belong to NACA.
“So you have what looks like quite a variety of people all singing from the same song sheet, which is the song sheet of aged care providers in the aged care industry who will, obviously – I wouldn’t do anything different – push their own interests,” he warned.
Versteege also recounted poor nutrition standards in homes and times when meals would go uneaten due to understaffing.
“What they found was that people were served a meal but were unable to get to it, not everybody obviously, but quite a few people were unable to actually eat that meal. And because staff were rushed, they would not be able to assist them. Staff would come round and collect the uneaten meal and a person would basically not eat.”
The commission continues with one more day this week and Monday to Wednesday next week
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