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The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety – worthwhile or not? What the AMA, ANMF and Universities Australia have to say

Careers and University, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Psychology, The Health Industry

On September 16, the government announced its plans to establish a Royal Commission that is expected to look into the conditions of the aged care sector in Australia. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety covers not only residential and home aged care but also young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care settings.

The Royal Commission anticipates to cover:

  • 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;
  • And other matters that the Royal Commission considers necessary.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) were forthright in stating that a Royal Commission will do nothing to fix the crisis in aged care.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said, “We can’t allow a Royal Commission to delay action from the Government any longer. This Government has had five years to fix the problems in aged care – they must stop the suffering now.”

The ANMF reiterated the importance of introducing mandated staffing ratios as a solution to the long overdue crisis in aged care, highlighting that currently residents are receiving only 2 hours 50 minutes of care per day, instead of 4 hours 18 minutes that the research says they should be getting.

Ms Butler said “there are no national laws to guarantee appropriate ratios of qualified nursing staff and aged care workers. Too often there may be only 1 registered nurse manage the care for over 100 nursing home residents, or only one carer to feed, bathe, dress and mobilise 16 residents in less than an hour.”

“While the current aged care crisis clearly warrants a Royal Commission, we know what the problems are. We have two decades’ of reports and inquiries outlining the problems. It’s time to take action. Let’s start by introducing a safe staffing law.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA), welcomed the decision and intent to institute a Royal Commission.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone said, “The AMA has made consistent and repeated approaches to Government about the need for better resourcing and regulation of the aged care sector.

Like the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Australian Medical Association also recognizes the serious lack of resources, staff, and coordination between sectors of aged care.

“We know that this Royal Commission will uncover uncomfortable and distressing stories, and systemic failures.

“The most recent AMA Aged Care Survey found that one in three doctors plan to cut back on or completely end their visits to patients in residential aged care facilities over the next two years. The Survey also found there are not enough suitably trained and experienced nurses in aged care.

“We need to see the ‘care’ put back into aged care,” Dr Bartone concluded.

On another note, Universities Australia acknowledged the need to improve care for the elderly as it announced that Universities are ready to work with aged care providers to expand university student placements.

A Matter of Care, a new strategy delivered by the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce, is the answer to the calls for additional placements.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson stressed that the talent needed to fill these placements can be provided by Australia’s world-class universities

She said, “Australian universities educate more than 100,000 health professionals each year. This covers vital services such as nursing, allied health, medicine and pharmacy – on which Australia’s aging population will increasingly rely.”

Ms Jackson believes that this opportunity will provide students with education and training placements that in turn helps the industry to develop a highly skilled workforce. She added that it also prepares the students entering the health professions to work with elderly people in a range of settings, including in their home, in health centres as well as in aged care facilities.

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