Neglect in Aged Care

25 February 2021

This time tomorrow the federal government will hold in their hands the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. This time tomorrow the Morrison government will know just how badly they have failed older Australians in aged care. This time tomorrow the government will have been given another report card outlining an aged-care sector rife with neglect and abuse. The government will pretend to be shocked by this reportand it is truly shockingbut the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government have known about the serious failings in aged care for seven years and they have not done anything. They have overseen $1.7 billion in cuts, the death of nearly 11,000 older Australians while waiting for home care in the past year, 685 aged-care deaths from coronavirus, chronic understaffing and malnutrition.

The royal commission's interim report into aged care painted a truly dark picture of providers putting profit before vulnerable people and it revealed just how terrible things truly are. The commission heard that every week 50 Australians living in aged care are sexually assaulted. It heard stories about Australians living in aged care with ants crawling across their open wounds. It heard that 20 per cent of Australians living in aged care are receiving substandard care. Now we know that about 50 per cent of those living in aged care are malnourished.

These examples only scratch the surface. There are serious issues facing this vital sector and this government has so far failed to act. The human cost of this inaction is horrific. No-one has faith in the aged-care system any more. Daughters and sons fear placing their parents and loved ones in aged care and there is the fear that one day we may each face some such substandard care.

Let me share with you two stories of the human cost in my electorate. Before I do I want to emphasise and thank the aged-care workers who have been on the front line during COVID caring for our older and most vulnerable citizens. Responsibility for the ills besetting the aged-care sector rests with the federal government, not with the workforce.

Jane from Grovedale suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Her partner suffered a stroke as a younger person and then again more recently. After the second stroke, Jane's partner needed to relocate to Canberra to be closer to family support. As a result of these events and Jane's condition, she's had to move into a caravan on her daughter's property. When Jane applied for a home-care package she was assessed over the phone. Jane needs housing, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Jane needs a government that does give a toss. Instead, Jane got hostile bureaucracy under instruction from a government looking to pinch pennies.

It is important to bear in mind that the people receiving care aren't the only victims. The way the system is designed hurts the workforce too. Paul is a registered nurse with over 30 years experience. He emailed me the other day to tell me that his employer is neglecting its duty of care, that staff are grossly under-resourced and that residents of the facility are seriously suffering. There have been ongoing breaches of infection control onsite during the catastrophic COVID pandemic, putting the staff and residents at huge risk. Staff have no hope. They have lost hope that anything will improve. Many who could get employment elsewhere have. The following is a direct quote from Paul. He said:

This organisation has me gobsmacked, as I have never seen such cost-cutting and staffing deficits. Here we are in a worldwide pandemic and there is one cleaner to care for the whole facility. I've seen the cleaner need to go into the kitchen to help them out too. Therefore, no cleaning gets done at all.

The registered nurse on night duties is expected to wash, dry and fold all the linen for the day as well as nursing duties. Carers and nurses are overstretched and inadequate care is provided to residents. They are also expected to clean rooms.

Management is only concerned with money, not at all concerned with care.

I hope this facility is shut down. I hope management is sent to jail.

These stories are disgusting. These stories are unacceptable. I urge the Morrison government to act now on the royal commission recommendations.