The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, stood before the TV cameras on Sunday to announce the Royal commission into aged care, stating that we have to be prepared for some shocking revelations in the Monday night Four Corners program and then in the Royal commission he was announcing.
For honest people in the aged care sector, while the case studies provided were grim, they were not a revelation.
The program and the aged care workers delivered an assessment on a system that is financially stripped to the bone and then overlaid with draconian regulation which accounts for up to 30% of staff time (which could be devoted to residents).
Against this backdrop the remarkable thing is the high quality care and person centred support provided to the vast majority of the 180,000 permanent residents and 40,000 respite/transition residents by the sector.
But as the program and interviewed workers pointed out this government designed and autocratically administered system is finally at breaking point, or now broken.
Bring on the Royal Commission! But investigate the government first at the commission, not the operators who have to operate under the government designed model.
Analysing the program itself, they stated that it was the biggest investigative project they have undertaken, five months in development. Over 4,000 people made contact and they spoke to 1,300.
The repeated message by interviewees was a need for more staff to allow time to execute their jobs properly. Additionally, staffing has been dumbed down to lower qualified staff executing high level functions, such as medication.
But the overriding message was the “bleak existence and non-attention by staff” endured by residents.
There is merit in this appraisal and is the basis for a wider discussion about us as a society.
The blunt reality is we have outsourced to strangers the care of our elderly, and we strangers can financially only provide those in our care with around three hours a day of ‘touch’. And those three hours are not quality hours because of work overload.
Food, medication, drugs as restraints etc all come back to funding. We as a society expect government to pay but this is not working.
The aged care sector also has a right to ask where are the families? For instance, some of the families in the program could have moved their loved ones to another home given they were unhappy with the treatment.
Four Corners says its program next week will explore “the abject failure of government regulation”.
This infers discussion of operators not maintaining standards etc. Let’s hope it also explores the straitjacket and at times futility of those regulations.
A special point. Credit should be given to LASA’s Sean Rooney for stepping up as a voice for the sector. A difficult task and a dangerous one. Just ask Gary Barnier.
Tomorrow we will produce a special edition of The Weekly SOURCE to look at the background work that has been done by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation to get us to the point of the Royal Commission.