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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6200

Mrs MAY (5:42 PM) —I would like to put on the record some of my concerns about the aged-care industry. I am delighted to see that the Minister for Ageing is in the House this afternoon. There have been a number of reports—a Senate report, an Australian Productivity Commission report and a National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission report—and industry leaders talking about the crisis in aged care. In that Senate report, we even heard from government senators describing the crisis in aged care. Yet we had two stimulus packages and a budget brought down with nothing for aged care in either of the stimulus packages and very little in the budget.

Minister, I would like to know why the government cut the indexation of the conditional adjustment subsidy in this year’s budget. You would know and understand that most of the industry was relying on that 1.75 per cent indexation on the 8.75 per cent they are currently getting as a way to plan for the future and put some money back into the industry. Minister, you would be aware that the Grant Thornton report identified that around 40 per cent of aged-care providers in this country are in the red. They are operating in the red and doing it really tough. We all recognise and acknowledge that we have an ageing population and that ageing population needs to be looked after.

In contrast to the aged-care industry, the Commonwealth committed to a new national healthcare agreement with a more generous indexation of around 7.3 per cent per annum for hospitals, and yet aged care got nothing; it missed out on the indexation. We do know that part of the aged-care pension increase was quarantined for those residents living in aged care, but, over a four-year projection, those aged-care providers are still going to be missing out. And I would like to know from the minister tonight how, in this country, aged-care providers are going to deliver the optimum care for senior Australians—around seven to eight per cent of them living in aged care?

In another area of concern, you would have been aware of the recent ABC program about the Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme. Clearly, according to the Four Corners report that night, the Complaints Investigation Scheme has not been doing what it has set out to do. If families or residents make complaints to the CIS, they should know that those complaints are going to be undertaken, that they are going to be investigated and that a report will come back to the complainants.

I would like to know, Minister, who makes the decision on which complaints are investigated? Because, certainly, that ABC report that night indicated that someone in an office decides whether or not a complaint is taken forward and is investigated. I think families in this country and, indeed, residents need to be assured that the Complaints Investigation Scheme that is in place does in fact undertake the duty that it is required to. I would like to know, Minister, that the funding for that body is in place, the steps you are going to take to ensure that the investigation teams do undertake investigation of complaints made by senior Australians in this country, and, indeed, their families so that they can be assured of the care that they are getting.

I would also like to ask the minister a question regarding the beds that have been handed back. These beds are worth dollars. We do know, over the past 12 months, there have been beds that have been handed back to the department. I would like some assurance tonight that those beds that are handed back to the department will again be up for subscription in the next ACAR round; that we are not actually losing those beds to the industry. We do know there is a shortage of aged-care beds and, if those beds that are being handed back are not actually coming back into the system, how are we going to make up for those shortfalls around the country?