Today and tomorrow, a tri-state conference in Albury NSW will seek to reform the aged care system through a billion-dollar plan to prevent closures, with a special forum held on how to prepare for future emergencies such as the recent bushfire crisis.
Hundreds of representatives from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will be attending the event hosted by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA). The organisation’s CEO Sean Rooney, who will be a key speaker, identifies the Royal Commission’s final report in November as a “once-in-a-generation catalyst for positive change – but it is our responsibility to show aged care leadership now”.
“A recent LASA review showed almost 200 residential aged care services across the nation, providing care for up to 50,000 people, are at unacceptably high levels of financial distress,” Rooney said.
“LASA is advocating for an additional $1.3 billion in operational funding over the next 18 months to avoid missed care and prevent more aged care closures that will devastate older Australians, their families and communities.”
Regional aged care homes are particularly vulnerable, with the urgent need to address the pressures faced given priority at the conference. The rural town of Gordon’s only home – Pyramid Aged Care Centre – is just one of many which faces imminent insolvency, placing the lives of workers and residents on course to profound disruption and dislocation.
“I know of a quality, community based home in regional Victoria which is losing almost $20,000 a month and another in regional New South Wales losing $50,000 a month,” said Rooney.
“This is totally unsustainable and puts the care of thousands of residents at risk.”
The Learnings from a Catastrophic Emergency forum will be held Tuesday afternoon. Led by a panel of emergency experts and care professionals, it presents an opportunity to reflect and share stories on the devastation wrought by the summer’s firestorms, while exploring ways in which aged care can better prepare for future events.
“As the fires raged, I have heard so many stories of how the dedication and compassion of care staff prevented loss of life in aged care and retirement villages,” said LASA CEO Sean Rooney.
“Not only do our hearts go out to those affected but our hearts swell with pride for the capacity of our amazing care workforce to go above and beyond, to ensure residents’ safety.”
One such workforce hero is Anne Brewer, a country nurse manager who will appear on the panel. Even after she lost her home while caring for older people at Buchan Bush Nursing Centre, she continued to send messages of support to the rest of the embattled community.
There are many other such stories of sacrifice and solidarity which emerged, and not just from individuals. When a state of emergency was called in January, Albury health services pulled together to assist Upper Murray and Alpine regions threatened by the encroaching flames.
One of these, Albury Wodonga Health, facilitated the short-term relocation of 15 residents and nursing staff from Alpine Health to its Wodonga hospital and aged care facility.
The conference, with the theme of Ageing Well From Policy to Practice will also focus on technology and innovation to improve the quality of aged care, with dementia technology advocate Cathie Lindholm a key speaker.
“We all have an opportunity to influence the present and the future of ageing well,” said Rooney.
“This conference is critical in considering how providers, staff and communities can drive the transformation of age services to benefit older Australians.”
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