Aged Care in the Media

Aged Care in the Media

18 September 18

In response to recent aged care publicity, Jason Binder, Chief Executive Officer, has released a statement so stakeholders are aware of Respect Aged Care’s position on a number of issues currently being publicly discussed.

Four Corners ‘Who Cares?’
On 17 September 2018 Four Corners aired the first part of their two-part investigation of the aged care industry titled ‘Who Cares?’.

We acknowledge some aged care providers are mistreating residents which is completely unacceptable, and against our values. This requires swift rectification and we are supportive of its exposure. We also understand that some aged care workers and families have had poor experiences in some aged care homes. The stories told last night, however, do not reflect how we, and many other aged care providers, care for our residents.

Many of our employees come to work every day for our residents, and genuinely respect and care for them as people, often as they would if they were their own parents. They form professional attachments and bonds, and have deep feelings about our residents, often attending funerals. We have received countless thank you letters, cards and donations from appreciative families for the care our staff provide.

The representation of the aged care industry by Four Corners was a deliberate attempt to provoke change where residents are being mistreated, which we fully support, however it is unfortunate that genuine aged care organisations and employees have been undeservedly stigmatised.

The Royal Commission
Scott Morrison announced a royal commission into aged care on 16 September 2018.

The Terms of Reference will not be known for another two to three weeks but will most likely include:

– The quality of care provided to older Australians, and the extent of substandard care;
– The challenge of providing care to Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care, particularly younger people with disabilities
– The challenge of supporting the increasing number of Australians suffering dementia and addressing their care needs as they age;
– The future challenges and opportunities for delivering aged care services in the context of changing demographics, including in remote, rural and regional Australia:
– Any other matters that the Royal Commission considers necessary.

We support the royal commission into aged care and increased scrutiny on the industry. The elderly are the people that built the society we now have the privilege to live in, and they deserve to be treated with respect and decency in the end stages of their lives. It’s unacceptable that the elderly are being mistreated in some aged care homes and we welcome any initiative that would prevent mistreatment of an elderly person.

Staff Ratios
Respect Aged Care is one of the few in the industry that is supportive of mandatory staff ratios.

Currently aged care providers determine their own staff ratios ‘based on resident acuity and the needs of the individual aged care home’. However, this becomes a basis for many private providers and some not-for-profit providers to use rosters and staff ratios to increase profit.

Mandatory staff ratios would stop any competition for profit based on staffing rosters and ratios and ensure that the elderly in Australia are receiving an appropriate amount of care in all aged care homes, as well as ensuring that funding is fair for all providers.

The notion that staff ratios need to be based on ‘resident acuity and the needs of the individual aged care home’ is in our view, flawed. Firstly, there is little evidence that resident acuity profiles vary excessively across the country. In our experience it varies little between most aged care homes. Secondly, ratios could be tied to funding which represents acuity. Thirdly, and most importantly, the only way to stop unscrupulous providers putting elderly people at risk due to low staffing ratios is to implement a mandatory ratio.

Increasing compliance initiatives and implementing punitive measures to try and force providers to increase staff ratios has never worked, and is therefore unlikely to ever work in the future. We need assurance that every aged care home in this country has an adequate amount of staff to care for our elderly, and we believe the only way to achieve that is through mandatory staff ratios.

The Aged Care Workforce Task-force report, called “A matter of care – a strategy for Australia’s aged care workforce” was released last week. The report showed that the number of Australians receiving aged care will almost triple by 2050, to 3.5 million, requiring staff numbers to grow from 366,000 to almost one million. This means we need to increase the aged care workforce by almost three times in the next 30 years.

We agree with the recommendations of the report which include creating a social change campaign to address the stigma of working in aged care, addressing current and future competencies and skills, defining new career pathways, developing a standard approach to workforce planning and skills mix, and open conversations about funding and pay.

Our staff absolutely deserve higher wages, and we don’t believe the Australian aged care workforce can increase by 300% in the next 30 years without it. Our nurses are paid less than they would get at hospitals, and have higher levels of responsibility. Our care workers and other front-line workers are paid less than many other low skilled workers in other industries, yet they look after our elderly in ways which astounds most people, including myself.

We would love nothing more than to take charge and provide the wages that our staff deserve, however if we did that the organisation would be bankrupt within six months. We are simply not funded to be able to provide the wages we would like to provide, and unfortunately even if the industry was funded for it, we believe many aged care providers would not increase wages. We believe they would increase profits and continue to pay aged care workers lower wages than they deserve.

In our view, for wages to be increased whilst ensuring providers do not become bankrupt or exploit funding increases, the Fair Work Commission must increase aged care award wages to a level that is deserved. This would mean providers would legally be required to pay those wages, and the government would need to increase funding to compensate for the increase in wages.

The current government has cut almost $2 billion from residential aged care funding. Scott Morrison, in his announcement on the royal commission into aged care, denied there had been funding cuts to the sector, citing an increase in funding. Please be aware that the government increased overall funding to the industry, however, they have made cuts to funding on a per resident basis. Extra place allocations occur every year as the elderly population increases and more aged care beds and home care places are needed to care for the elderly. Funding for the industry has gone up due to increased numbers of elderly to care for, but funding to individual residents has been cut. It is an undeniable fact that the government has cut almost $2 billion from aged care funding on a per resident basis, meaning each existing resident has lost significant amounts of funding.

It is our hope that the royal commission will positively change the aged care industry. Unfortunately, the government, commentators, reporters, and the average person wants the problem solved by simply pointing fingers at aged care providers, some deservedly, but many undeservedly. However, for real change to occur, we need the government to not just wield a stick and implement punitive measures, but to also ensure there is an increase in funding to meet the current and future care needs of our precious elderly. Funding must be increased or cuts reversed whilst the royal commission is occurring, and in the long-term, the government must be willing to commit the required funding to ensure that every elderly person in Australia spends the last part of their lives being treated with respect and dignity.