The lawyers assisting the aged care royal commission last week handed down 124 recommendations for the commissioners to consider – and Australia’s nurses say the majority must be implemented.
Counsel assisting Peter Rozen said there has been an absence of leadership by successive governments in aged care.
“Even though the aged care system caters for more than 1.2 million older people, governments have treated it as a lower-order priority,” Rozen said.
His and fellow counsel assisting Peter Gray’s recommendations include a new aged care act, a public star rating system and compulsory regulation of personal care workers.
The lawyers also wanted to see minimum staffing ratios, increased wages and indexation of nursing salaries in residential and home care and targeted education and training for aged care workers in palliative care, dementia and infection control – all of which were recommendations ACN highlighted.
The college’s chief executive, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, said: “The recommendation of a staged approach to reach a staffing minimum in residential aged care of one Registered Nurse on site at all times by 1 July 2024 and respecting that case mix is vital to the determination of minimum staffing levels, are in line with ACN’s submission to the Royal Commission.”
Ward said the college applauded the fact the recommendations address difficult issues such as diversity, cultural safety and pay equality.
“We must recognise that aged care is part of every person’s individual health journey, and not simply about which accommodation option people take.”
Wrapping up 97 days of hearings, Rozen said it was evident the level of substandard care is “far too high” and abuse “remains rife”.
Almost half of the 10,000-plus public submissions received during the two-year inquiry were marked with references to substandard care, he said.
He said 588 mentioned sexual assault, and the number of allegations reported to the federal health department rose from 426 in 2014-15 to 790 in 2018-19.
“It is more than two reports per day of sexual assault on average, every day of the year,” Rozen said.
He said the rate of alleged sexual assaults per 100 residents nearly doubled over that period.
“We submit that the weight of the evidence before the commission supports a finding that high-quality aged care is not being delivered on a systemic level in our system,” Rozen said.
“The level of substandard care is unacceptable by any measure.
“At least one in five people receiving residential aged care have received substandard care.”
Rozen said a “number of systemic failures” included a lack of skilled staff, poor planning, poor governance and leadership from providers and a lack of transparency generally in the sector.
“First and most importantly the aged care system needs to put people first. The preferences and needs of older people really should drive aged care,” Commissioner Lynelle Briggs said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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