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A system in crisis & where is the phantom minister?



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334a Marrickville Road, Marrickville NSW 2204 Phone (02) 9564 3588  Fax (02) 9564 1734 Parliament House: Phone (02) 6277 4031 Fax (02) 6277 8445

Friday, 15 March 2002

A SYSTEM IN CRISIS & WHERE IS THE PHANTOM MINISTER?

The sanctioning of the Tanby Hall Nursing Home in Western Australia following a 6-day audit again highlights the critical shortage of skilled nursing staff in the aged care sector.

The audit found that the basic medical needs of elderly patients’ were not being met and most disturbingly of all, that a resident with 6 broken ribs and 2 broken vertebrae was left without medical attention for 2 days.

This latest revelation follows the sanctioning last month of another Western Australian aged care facility, Mosman Park Nursing Home, following an allegation that a resident’s leg had become infected with maggots.

This latest incident also highlights the disturbing fact that up to 19,000 older Australians are living in nursing homes that do not meet basic fire safety standards. In 1999 the Commonwealth Government identified 1,200 or 1/3 of residential aged care services that failed to meet at least 19 of the 25 required fire safety standards.

Despite being aware of this serious problem since 1999, the Government has done little to ensure that nursing homes improved their safety standards. They have simply ignored the problem leaving residents at risk.

According to the National Aged Care Alliance the sector is experiencing extreme difficulties in attracting and retaining adequate and qualified staff.

Nurses and care workers cite excessive workloads, lack of pay parity with their public hospital counterparts and their inability to achieve desired care outcomes as deterrents to remaining in the sector.

Nursing home operators, unions and the Labor Opposition have all repeatedly warned the Government that a national strategy addressing staffing shortages and related issues must be developed as a priority. Such a national strategy would ensure that qualified staff are always on hand to diagnose and treat residents.

It is time the Government stop requiring aged care workers to do more with less and without the necessary training and experience.

Given that the aged care sector is a regulated industry where the Government sets the fees operators can charge, the building standards they are required to meet and the level of public subsidies provided, the Minister must accept that he has a fundamental responsibility to guarantee quality care and adequate staffing is being provided to all residents.

If measures are not put in place immediately to address the staffing crisis and ensure homes meet basic fire safety standards then incidents like that uncovered at Mosman Park Nursing Home and now at Tanby Nursing Home have the potential to become more regular and even fatal.

It is extraordinary that the phantom Minister has made no public statement on these specific issues and how he intends to fix them.

For more information: Anthony Albanese, MP 0419 777 597 Jeff Singleton 0414 492 420

Anthony Albanese MP Federal M ember for Grayndler Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors