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Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Labor’s aged care promises: the sector reacts

Labor has promised that, if elected, it will address inadequate staffing in aged care and ensure there is a registered nurse onsite at all residential aged care facilities 24 hours a day.

Via a statement released yesterday, opposition leader Bill Shorten said the party will also publish the skills mix of the workforce employed at every residential aged care facility to ensure the appropriate skills mix of staff is present at all times.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) said the announcement is “generally good news for older Australians”.

Why the caveat? Chief executive Sean Rooney said the peak body would have preferred fully costed responses to the solutions it has put forward to make the aged care system better.

Still, Rooney said LASA welcomed Shorten’s commitment that he will take decisive action if elected this Saturday.

“We particularly welcome the ALP’s plan to fix the unacceptable impact on the nearly 130,000 older Australians waiting for a home care package.”

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler said the announcement was not just positive news for nurses and carers in aged care but for those working across the public hospital system.

“Nurses working in stretched emergency departments and acute hospitals, who see many presentations and admissions of older people to their services due to inadequate care, will welcome the start of action to reduce the load on the overburdened public hospital system,” Butler said.

“Years of inaction from governments and lack of responsibility from far too many aged care providers have resulted in an aged care workforce that is at breaking point.”

Dementia care training

Labor yesterday also homed in on support for Australians with dementia and their families and carers. It promised to make the care of people with dementia a national priority.

This will include establishing a network of dementia care navigators to support Australians with dementia and their families and carers with the complex interactions between the Department of Health and Ageing, Centrelink, aged care providers and the broader healthcare system.

Shorten also vowed to improve the training of aged care staff to improve the understanding of dementia, including through scholarships for nurses and carers to undertake specialist dementia care training.

Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe commended Labor’s commitment to increasing aged care training and building the appropriate skills mix of aged care.

“The appropriate skills mix in aged care is just as important as staffing numbers when caring for people living with dementia,” McCabe said.

“Making the system less complicated, with better access to home care packages, is an essential step in the right direction, especially when it comes to supporting people’s choices to stay at home as long as possible and engaged in the community around them.”

“We look forward to seeing this focus on dementia continue well after the election.”

Other promises announced yesterday include that a Labor government will:

  • Immediately investigate interventions to ensure older Australians most at need are prioritised for home care
  • Provide opportunities through TAFE, so that up to 20,000 aged care workers can obtain or improve their qualifications
  • Immediately speed up the implementation of the Matter of Care workforce strategy to address inadequate staffing in aged care
  • Look at how best to improve access to home care packages and increasing staffing levels and skills
  • Further address the number of GPs working in aged care to provide proper incentives for GPs to do home visits and provide services in residential aged care.
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