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Thursday, 7 December 2000
Page: 23822

Ms CORCORAN (9:52 AM) —I speak today of a sense of anxiety, of insecurity and of frustration that I feel building up day by day in my electorate. It centres on the care of elderly people in our community, specifically those resident in nursing homes. Over the year we have heard a lot about the distressed experience by the residents of Riverside as they were forced to leave their home and find other accommodation. But I want to talk about two other groups of people today. The first group is the people living in the retirement village and serviced apartments associated with Riverside. The second group is the staff who care for our nursing home residents.

Riverside Nursing Home is associated with a retirement village nearby and Illawong serviced apartments, situated right next door. The people who bought into the retirement village and into Illawong did so partly to enjoy the facilities of those two places but partly because they were also buying security. Residency at these two places gave these people priority for a bed in Riverside if they should ever need one. These folk, having made provision for their future needs, then got on with enjoying their retirement. Now they have lost that security. Suddenly there is a chasm—there is no nursing home nearby and, for some, their life partner who was resident in Riverside is now miles away and inaccessible.

The staff in our nursing homes are professionals who are feeling frustrated because they cannot deliver the level of care they know is needed. They have told me they cannot give the personal or human attention needed. For example, they cannot take time to wash someone's hair or to stop to have a chat with a lonely resident. They are put into a position of `shovelling in the food' without being able to pause to wipe away the occasional spill and give that degree of dignity to residents.

All of this is caused by inadequate staffing levels. We as a community must concentrate on, and not allow our focus to slip from, ensuring that the care of elderly people in nursing homes receives the highest priority attention. Quality of care is the pivotal point around which change must be planned, and quality of care is the basis upon which the Labor Party's policy is built, with the proposed national benchmark of care at its core. One part of providing such care is addressing the workplace issues. Inadequate staffing levels and lack of training inevitably affect the quality of care.

It was these staffing issues which drove aged care nurse Glenda Addicott to initiate a petition. It calls on the federal government to urgently review staffing levels in nursing homes and hostels. Because Ms Addicott is leaving the sector, she felt she was able to take a stand and draw attention to these issues. Glenda Addicott has tapped into a strong community nerve in the care of our elderly. In a short space of time nearly 18,000 people, mostly in Melbourne, notified their concern by adding their signatures to the petition. I wish to serve notice that I will be tabling this petition early in the next sitting of parliament. Bringing this petition to the notice of the House will focus attention on the state of affairs in the aged care sector. I also ask: why should our elderly have to wait for a change of government before they can enjoy the standard of care they deserve?