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Friday, April 23, 2021

‘One-in-a-generation opportunity’: Fitzgibbon calls on federal government to reform aged care

Federal MP for the Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon believes the Royal Commission report into aged care is a “one-in-a-generation” opportunity to reform the sector.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety passed down its final report to Governor-General David Hurley today (Friday 26 February).

The Royal Commission heard from 641 witnesses and received more than 10,000 submissions in its comprehensive review of the current aged care system.

In 2019, the body released an interim report which called for “urgent action”.

The final report is expected to be a scathing review of the current system, and calls for wide-scale reform are anticipated.  

Mr Fitzgibbon said the Royal Commission’s investigation had demonstrated “very serious problems” with Australia’s aged-care sector.

“Some of the stories we’ve had from aged care workers were quite horrifying,” he said.

“Whether local or nationally, we’ve had more than sufficient [evidence] to know that we have to do a whole lot better than they’ve been doing in recent years.

“It’s a shame that government had to be dragged screaming to a Royal Commission.”

The Hunter MP, who serves as the Deputy Chair of the Select Committee on Regional Australia, called upon the federal government to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations “as quickly as possible”.

“I’m very confident the recommendations will be robust and inviting of a swift government response,” Mr Fitzgibbon added.

“Going on this government’s record on aged care, I’m not particularly confident they will respond sufficiently, but we will certainly put a lot of pressure on them to do so.”

One of the Royal Commission’s findings included “no mandated requirement regarding staffing levels within Australian aged care homes”.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the current staff-to-resident ratios were “unacceptable”.

“At the end of the day, it’s largely about workforce and about resources,” he said.

“Taking care of our older Australians should surely be one of the highest priorities, for any government, and it’s the last place we should go when seeking to make savings, and that’s exactly what this government has been doing over the course of the last six years or so.

“One of the challenges of ratios is getting the workforce you need and, in turn, one of the [issues] there is the paltry wages we are paying for aged care workers.

“[We] need to ensure that people want to work in aged care and, to create that enthusiasm, we need to find a way of increasing wages and conditions in that sector.”

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