Aged care leadership needs to speak up. Media needs to hear balancing voices

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The words of the Aged Care Commissioners and Scott Morrison go a long way in the setting the picture in the public’s mind that aged care is ‘cruel’.

And now even the sensible journalists who normally provide balance are generating their own interpretations – and messages – for the public.

Yesterday respected economist and NINE journalist Ross Gittens wrote a long opinion piece in the SMH, ostensibly about government involvement with industry, but culminating with no supporting evidence, that the private sector should not be in aged care.

But it’s worse than that. Part of the Smaller Government mentality is having aged care provided by someone other than the government – including for-profit providers which, as every Smaller Government crusader knows, are far more efficient than the public service.

Except that, as the commission’s report demonstrates yet again, they’re not. And when they can’t use greater efficiency to cover their profit margin, they extract it by cutting quality. The report doesn’t say so, but it’s a safe bet the for-profits are at the forefront of the “poor continence management,” “dreadful food, nutrition and hydration,” and “common use of physical restraint” and “overprescribing of drugs which sedate residents” to make them easier to manage, it uncovered.”

Trouble is, so long as so much of the “industry” is profit-maximising, no amount of increased funding will be sufficient to stop residents being mistreated.

What is all this say to the 360,000 staff in the aged care system, and their families?

None of them come to work in a cruel system, and none of them are cruel.

What about all the families of residents who up until now had confidence in the care their family were receiving because that was their experience?

It is no wonder that the number of complaints has doubled since the Royal commission started – some will be revealed that many will be ‘ghost’ concerns.

It must be time for leaders to speak up and defend the work and integrity of the 360,000.

As an example, we received this message from David Reece (pictued), CEO of Advent Care (VIC).

Whilst the Commission has done some good work their report language is emotive and alarmist and designed to excite the media. I am disappointed that this and the title neglect is the focus.

On page 118 the Commissioners state that good examples of care are the exception. This is simply not true and the silent majority of aged care providers who have not had the opportunity to present the good news to the Commission are the rule.

The Commissioners have only visited 24 homes which is only 0.8% of the industry and therefore do not present a balanced picture of the industry.

Yes, the industry has many issues and major reform is warranted, but there needs to be proper recognition of the great things are staff and residents do and enjoy in their lives.

We would also welcome your comments.

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