It's been five weeks since the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety handed down its final report.
After two years of inquiry, 641 witnesses and more than 10,500 submissions, the final report spans five volumes detailing all that is wrong with aged care in this country over 2800 pages.
Titled Care, Dignity and Respect the report says: "The extent of substandard care in Australia's aged care system reflects both poor quality on the part of some aged care providers and fundamental systemic flaws with the way the Australian aged care system is designed and governed. People receiving aged care deserve better. The Australian community is entitled to expect better."
I wholeheartedly agree.
Up until this point the Morrison government has said all the right things. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told The Australian on March 1 that he is "absolutely committing to taking this report and addressing the issues that are raised... That's what I've said. It won't be easy. It will test everything in our budget."
Forgive me though if I have my reservations that this report will be acted upon in a meaningful enough way to effect the scale of change that is so desperately needed.
We have known about the significant challenges of caring for our ageing population for almost 20 years.
Forgive me though if I have my reservations that this report will be acted upon in a meaningful enough way to effect the scale of change that is so desperately needed. We have known about the significant challenges of caring for our ageing population for almost 20 years.
Since 2003, there have been more than 28 major reviews and inquiries into aged care and neither major party has had the strength of conviction to heed these warnings.
Successive governments have done bugger all about it. Hopefully that all changes now.
Now is our chance to transform the aged care system for the benefit of all Australians and we must not waste it.
The Commissioners have carefully considered the myriad complex challenges faced by this sector and have made 148 recommendations to help fix it.
Now is the time for immediate action that moves us closer to the vision outlined for aged care.
This will be a multi-year transition for our sector. Bipartisan support, not bickering over minor issues, is fundamental to realising the change we have been advocating for over many years.
I look forward to the Prime Minister putting money where his mouth is come the May 2021 budget and beyond. He must commit the nation to a long-term remedy.
There is universal recognition that ageing in place is the preferred way to see out our twilight years and the government has been right to focus some of its recent funding splurges on releasing more home care packages to those who are on the extensive waiting list.
Without a doubt this commitment must increase and continue.
While the ultimate goal should be to stay in our homes, there will still be a need for some to be cared for in an aged care centre.
We'll still need aged care for palliation, end of life, extreme dementia or immobility, so the funding model and structure for this needs deep consideration.
The Commissioners identified multiple opportunities for improvement in this space.
Though adequate funding is a significant challenge I would say the biggest one of all is maintaining a viable workforce, particularly in our regional and rural locations.
Finding the right people with the right caring attitude and providing them with appropriate training is a constant battle and we would welcome significant reform in this area to attract and retain committed, trained and skilled staff.
In its initial response, the Morrison government committed $92 million over four years to create more than 18,000 places for home care workers.
That's great, but this does not address the struggle of finding enough appropriate people who are destined to care and are adequately trained and skilled.
How are we making aged care an attractive career that people want to enter?
I fear we are not going to find these additional 18,000 people to fill these positions. They are just not out there.
Above all it is my hope that the outcome of the Royal Commission promotes tangible action that not only has a positive impact on the lives of today's older Australians but also those of us who are working to make their lives better, and every Australian who will one day require aged care.
- Patrick Reid is IRT CEO