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Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Page: 5603


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (18:51): The aged-care system in Australia is rapidly approaching crisis point. The number of people over 65 is set to double over the next 20 years and the industry is desperate for additional funding particularly for capital works. There are a number of indicators that should alarm all policy-makers in this House in the provision of residential care in particular, and I would like to talk about some of these.

Last year the federal government allocated 1,564 additional residential aged-care places to Western Australia. However, only 314 of the beds were taken up—just 20 per cent. In the preceding year, of the 1,208 beds on offer, only 507 or 42 per cent were taken up in WA. What is worse, over the last three years 786 aged-care bed licences, the licence that provides the funding for aged-care beds, were handed back to the government and 283 of them were from Western Australia. We are now some 2,400 beds short of our aged-care requirements in WA. The situation is going to get worse.

This is happening at a time when the group referred to as the 'baby boomers', those born between 1946 and 1964, start to enter retirement. They are looking at retirement and at aged-care solutions. I would suggest that several members in this House right at this moment may be part of that group and may feel as though they are being made responsible for a lot of the world's problems. Some of us do, however, represent a significant increase in the ageing population, which makes the debate on how we care for our ageing community perhaps even more urgent for some members here.

In my electorate of Forrest there are around 19,000 residents over the age of 65 and that number will increase rapidly. We have 30 aged-care facilities; however, the number of facilities and their capacity has to expand as the age demographic within my electorate increases. I note that in its 2011-12 budget submission the Aged Care Industry Council stated:

A snapshot of the industry at the start of 2011 does not depict a sustainable system: only 40% of residential aged care services are operating in the black; hours of service are decreasing; hours of care provided under community aged care packages have fallen; and many providers are not building new residential care beds. The situation is worse in rural and regional areas where providers face generally higher costs with less ability to manage their income streams.

This is exactly the case in my electorate, and I would expect it is also the case in other rural and regional electorates. It is extremely difficult for aged-care providers to invest in new facilities. The financial viability of the sector is critical to the ongoing provision of appropriate aged care in this nation.

As well as the viability issue, as we engage in the debate about aged care, there are several other questions. One of them is: what is the most appropriate form of care? Historically senior members of our community were cared for by their families in the homes. While in some circumstances this may have resulted in some forms of neglect, in most cases it did not. In many countries in the world it is still the primary form of aged care. Some constituents of mine with a strong history in the aged-care sector visited Italy in recent years and did some research on the aged-care industry there. It was extremely limited, of course, because most of the aged care in Italy centred on care in the home, by the family, with the support as needed. We have some similarities. They have a baby boomer population entering retirement, as does most of the developed world. There are increasing numbers of families who can no longer care for their ageing relatives at home although Italy, as you would imagine, starts from a much lower base on this.

Most Australians want to live in their own homes as long as they possibly can. When people cannot do so, they will most certainly enter residential care but, because it will be later in life, they will be in a much more frail state with far more serious health issues, as the member for Mackellar frequently advises us. They will potentially need high care, which brings me to the bill before the House. Accommodation bonds are an acknowledgement that the individual does have some responsibility to contribute to their own aged care. The bill tightens the rules for the use of bond money. Greater certainty in the area is required, but it is another tinkering around the edges of aged-care provision. This is an industry that is overwhelmed with compliance already, yet the government is adding to that burden, and more and more resources within these facilities are being directed to compliance and less into patient care where it is so badly needed. Again, the government has broken its promise to repeal one piece of legislation and regulation for every other piece that it passes. As I said, the industry is swamped with complex, overlapping and costly regulations.

The government must also consider the specific and individual needs of smaller, community based aged-care providers such as Tuia Lodge in Donnybrook in my electorate, which is a 26-bed facility employing 30 very caring staff members. Lui Tuia has been the driving force, as the member for Mackellar knows. It has been Lui's leadership and endless volunteering, the commitment from the local community and constant community fundraising that has provided the people of Donnybrook with a great quality, caring aged-care facility. In this small community not only does Tuia Lodge provide aged care but it is one of the major employers in the town. I am told that, in general, aged care employs more people than retail. Facilities like Tuia Lodge need to be able to expand to meet the growing demands of Donnybrook. There will be an explosion in the need for high-care provision within three years in this area, but they need the capital funding to expand and, of course, it has to be a profitable outcome to proceed and be sustainable. Tuia Lodge needs all the help and consideration of its specific needs from this government not only to continue to provide quality services but to continue to expand to meet the needs of the community.

Another issue confronting rural and regional communities is the fact that parents with disabled children of a mature age have no aged-care accommodation facilities that provide for their specific needs. The task ahead, the future of aged care will take bold vision and strength of resolve that not only is not in this legislation but is also lacking from this government.

An aged-care provider in the town of Collie in my electorate, Southern Cross Care, has a 64-bed residence which currently has a waiting list of 22 people. One poor lady has recently had to leave the town she has lived in for 66 years and move 50 kilometres to Bunbury. There was no other option for the lady and, of course, it is particularly difficult for her family.

I did want to briefly touch on palliative care, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I see that my time has run out. I believe there are other matters in this House that are about to be dealt with, so I will conclude my remarks.