Aged care campaign ramps up
LABOR and unions are stepping up their campaign for better quality in aged care, holding a rally in Marshall last week calling for key recommendations from the damning Royal Commission into the sector to be implemented, particularly around staffing and resident care.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese made comprehensive reform of aged care the centrepiece of his March budget reply, where he announced a “plan to fix the crisis in aged care” costed at $2.5 billion over four years, and Labor candidates such as Corangamite federal member Libby Coker have been campaigning hard on the issue.
“This is such an important time, aged care is in crisis, Labor knows this,” Ms Coker said at the rally outside Mercy Place Rice Village on Friday last week.
“I’ve had so many aged care workers and nurses come to me, particularly during COVID and they have been in tears and I’ve been in tears with them, because the stories have been horrific.”
Should it win government, Labor has committed to having a registered nurse on site at every aged care facility 24/7, mandating 215 minutes of care per day to each resident and improving the quality of food they receive, backing a pay rise for workers in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and improving reporting standards for providers on the federal funding they receive.
Announcing the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in 2018 following a series of revelations of neglect and abuse in the sector, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care simply cannot be explained or excused”.
The commission’s final report, publicly released in early 2021, stated Australia’s aged care system had “a shocking tale of neglect … under prolonged stress and has reached crisis point.”
Mr Morrison responded to the report with a $452 million package to reform the sector. A series of other funding announcements have followed, including $7.7 billion for home care, $8.1 billion for residential aged care services and sustainability, $1.5 billion for quality and safety and $1.8 billion for workforce and governance.
Addressing the rally, Victorian secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) Lisa Fitzpatrick recited at least 10 slogans the union had used over the past 25 years during campaigns pushing for better wages and conditions in the sector.
“More than a year since the final report from the Royal Commission and nothing has changed,” federal ANMF secretary Annie Butler added.
“We have a system that has more than 50 per cent of nursing home residents who are malnourished… more than 30 per cent of residents who on a daily basis do not get their care needs met because there just aren’t enough staff … just this year, more than 1200 residents in nursing homes have died from COVID.”
The ANMF is representing aged care nurses in the FWC pushing for a 25 per cent wage increase.
Labor has committed to fund whatever increase the commission decides should it win government.
The Coalition will also back wage increases, but has not committed to directly funding them through government subsidies.