Home | Aged Care Royal Commission | The aged care system is broken: we need proper, hard reform – Ged Kearney

The aged care system is broken: we need proper, hard reform – Ged Kearney

The Aged Care Royal Commission has handed its final report to the government. And fellow nurses, haven’t we been waiting for this for a long time.

For decades, we’ve been raising our voices, telling anyone who would listen that the aged care system is broken. I want to acknowledge the work of the Royal Commission and all who provided evidence, including the many wonderful, wonderful nurses.

While the Prime Minister could have simply acted on evidence that he’s had sitting on his desk for seven years – evidence of inadequate care, profiteering providers, neglect and negligence in aged care homes – the Royal Commission has enabled older people, their families and its workforce to tell their stories. It was harrowing and fundamentally awful to hear how badly the system has failed our elderly, their families and the aged care workforce.

No one should suffer the indignity that many of our elderly have suffered.

Whilst most aged care facilities are providing excellent care, the Royal Commission detailed shocking failures in many others. It outlined the structural weaknesses in the system and, to quote the Commission itself:

"… the aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them."

This is a system where people banned from the poultry industry after starving chickens were given an aged care licence.

It’s a system in which nurses and carers find themselves with impossible workloads – literally run off their feet. Where attending to a resident who has fallen may mean others aren’t fed.

The Commission says that the aged care workforce is:  

…underpaid, undervalued…  

Ain’t that the truth?

So before the politics of the recommendations of the Royal Commission begin, I want to say to those of you who work in aged care, a very sincere thank you. Thank you for everything. For hanging in there and for speaking up. I know how hard it is to care and advocate for people – especially at the end of their life.

You do your absolute best to provide your residents with dignity and respect, but I know over time it’s been getting harder and harder to give them the time and the care you want to give them, and that they deserve.

You have been screaming out for reform and resources – so you can do the very best job for your residents and indeed their families. But your calls have been completely ignored by the Liberal Government.

What the Royal Commission has shown us is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Now the report has been handed down, the Morrison Government has a blueprint for how to actually fix aged care – once and for all.

And we cannot let the opportunity slip by us. We must continue to push the government to act. And to act properly – not just be there for a photo opportunity and then no delivery. We need proper, hard reform. Reform I’d argue only the Labor party is capable of delivering – but in this instance, I hope I’m wrong.

The Labor party knows how crucial this is. Labor’s leader Anthony Albanese has pledged to stand up and fight for the workforce, for quality care and for a system we can be proud of.

So raise your voice, write to your MP and demand the government act on the recommendations in the Royal Commission. Nurses are respected, loved and believed. Your voices are powerful beyond belief – please raise them.

Ged Kearney is the Shadow Assistant Minister Health and Ageing and a Registered Nurse.

This article was published prior to the release of the final report.

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