Government-only aged care system unlikely and unrealistic: Grattan Institute webinar – campaign needed to hold Government to account on Royal Commission recommendations

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The Commonwealth cannot be expected to buy back aged care homes from For Profit and Not For Profit providers – and the focus should be on improving services and culture across the sector, a Grattan Institute webinar has heard yesterday.

The webinar – held in partnership with the State Library of Queensland State of Affairs – featured Royal Commission witness Merle Mitchell AM, Mary Patetsos, the Chair of the Board of Aged Care Housing Group (ACH Group) and Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA) and Director of Grattan’s Health Program, Dr Stephen Duckett.

The panel discussed a range of issues including the Grattan Institute’s latest report ‘Rethinking aged care: emphasising the rights of older Australians’ which slammed the privatisation of Australia’s aged care system.

As we reported here, Dr Duckett had blasted the marketisation of aged care and the lack of regulation of For Profit providers in the report.

But his fellow panelists argued that having only state-owned residential care would be unrealistic based on the financial costs – and having the right leadership and culture is more important to ensuring quality care.

Providers should be judged by services – not ownership

Ms Mitchell – who lives in Regis’ Mount Waverley Gardens aged care home in Dandenong North in Melbourne – said some For Profits were taking good care of the residents, mainly from putting in place managers who have a right based perspective to aged care services.

“The manager here is determined that everyone here will get a good service,” she said. “It’s very easy to put people into little boxes, but it needs to be a system of actually judging the sorts of services people are being provided with.”

Ms Patetsos agreed, saying care often came down to the site managers and executive as well as organizational culture.

She noted that across the country during COVID, many providers performed well regardless of their ownership status – and the focus should be on lifting overall quality standards.

“It’s important to escalate performance across the board so consumers can choose which entity type they would like,” she stated.

Having a solely Government-owned system is unrealistic and unlikely, she added, particularly given the capital requirements for operators.

Campaign needed to pressure Government on implementing Royal Commission recommendations

The panel also warned of the importance of holding the Government to account on the Royal Commission’s recommendations when the Final Report is released in February next year.

Ms Patetsos said the Royal Commission had gained so much momentum, it would be “almost impossible” for the Government to not take responsibility but added that providers and consumers would need to maintain the pressure.

“Holding the Government to account is the only way forward,” she said. “Providers are looking for a way forwards as much as consumers are.”

But Dr Duckett pointed out that it took a strong campaign for the Government to respond to the Productivity Commission report that eventually resulted in the creation of the NDIS.

“I think we still need to have pressure… and hold their feet to the fire publicly,” he said. “I don’t think we can sit back on our laurels.”

Ms Mitchell summed it up best however:

“This is our best chance in years,” she concluded. “Please let the Government know we want and support change.”

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