In a departure from the policies taken to the last federal election, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has come out in favour of minimum staffing levels in aged care.
Speaking to the National Press Club, Albanese decried the state of affairs in the sector and blasted the current aged care minister Richard Colbeck.
“There are few greater indictments on this Government than Minister Colbeck’s performance last week before the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 led by Katy Gallagher,” said Albanese.
“As he fumbled about with pieces of paper, it became clear that even the absolute basics of his job were beyond him.
“We saw the heights of his ineptitude.”
He hit the government for funding cuts to the system, such as the 1.7 billion stripped from the sector by Scott Morrison when he was treasurer. He also took aim at the revolving door nature of the aged care portfolio while the liberal party have been in power.
“As a distillation of the Liberal ethos – deregulation to the point it’s almost the law of the jungle – it’s hard to top.
“They have churned through seven ministers with responsibility for aged care – one for every year they have been in power.
“The incumbent doesn’t even sit in the Cabinet. And this week he was effectively demoted,” he said.
Albanese laid out Labor’s eight-point plan for addressing the massive failings of the system, and top of the list is mandating staff to resident ratios.
“In the absence of a Government plan, here are eight points the Government could consider:
- Minimum staffing levels in residential aged care.
- Reduce the home care package waiting list so more people can stay in their homes for longer.
- Ensure transparency and accountability of funding to support high quality care.
- Independent measurement and public reporting as recommended by the Royal Commission this week.
- Ensure every residential aged care facility has adequate personal protective equipment.
- Better training for staff, including on infection control.
- A better surge workforce strategy; and
- Provide additional resources so the Aged Care Royal Commission can inquire specifically into COVID-19 across the sector while not impacting or delaying the handing down of the final report.”
Medicare levy an option for funding
One funding option continually put forward as a fix for aged care is a Medicare levy and appearing on ABC’s Insiders, Albanese did not rule this out.
“We’ll examine the royal commission when it comes out with regard to structural change that’s required,” Mr Albanese said.
“But I make this point … Labor oversaw the creation of Medicare to deal with our health system as a whole.”
The Health Services Union has called for a Medicare levy hike to pump up to $20 billion into Australia’s crisis-hit aged care sector.
HSU modelling shows lifting the levy from two per cent to 2.65 per cent would transform the sector over four years.
“Australians have a clear choice,” the union’s national president Gerard Hayes said on Monday.
“We can provide dignity and decency to the generation that built this nation. And we can do it for a reasonably modest outlay.”
The plan would create 59,000 jobs across the sector, which has come under immense pressure during the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of resident deaths.
Lifting the levy would also improve standards for residents who would receive an extra 89 minutes of daily attention from carers, allied health therapists and registered nurses.
However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was quick to pour cold water on the union’s plan.
“We have no plans to do that. Our focus is on lower taxes,” he told Sky News.
“We do commit to spending more on aged care by the tune of $1 billion a year.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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