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Wednesday, 11 May 2005
Page: 149

Mrs ELLIOT (9:40 AM) —On 28 April I hosted the local Aged Care Summit, bringing together aged care providers, health professionals and local seniors. At the summit I heard directly from those involved in aged care about the issues they face in providing adequate services to the local elderly. I heard from carers who simply do not get the support they need from this government. I heard from respite workers whose services are now under threat because of the Howard government’s tendering system. I also heard from the people who run local nursing homes and from the elderly themselves.

The message was loud and clear: the Howard government has neglected aged care in Richmond for nine years and they want something done about it. That is why I am presenting these findings to parliament today. I want the minister and the Prime Minister to hear what I hear from my community every day: more funding is needed for aged care, and it needs to be spent in the right places. The 2,000 EACH packages delivered in last night’s budget for people suffering from dementia barely touch the sides of what is needed to fill the gap. At the same time seniors will be hit in the hip pocket by the increased number of prescriptions needed per year for the safety net to kick in.

The government is not providing the home care so desperately needed to keep elderly people independent in their own homes. We have the appalling situation of just 35 home care packages being provided for an area covering Grafton to the Queensland border. This means a six- to seven-month waiting list for just seven hours of home care a week. People like Ann from Banora Point, who is barely able to walk and suffers from a variety of incapacitating illnesses, cannot access the limited home care they need to help maintain their homes.

Despite the Treasurer’s assertions, the government is not providing enough support to the carers of elderly people who also work tirelessly to keep loved ones out of aged care beds. Respite services and other support services are currently under threat because of the introduction of competitive tendering. Locals at the summit told me that a cut to respite would be disastrous for the carers in our community—for people like Aileen, a local woman who cares for her infirm elderly mother and intellectually disabled daughter. Without the limited amount of respite her family receives, she would be effectively housebound.

I will always fight for a better deal for my community. This aged care summit was the very first step in improving services for the local elderly. I will keep the pressure on the Howard government until these problems are fixed. Across the board we are finding so much desperate need in the aged care industry, particularly in relation to home care—and in relation to the lack of nursing home beds as well. Now, with this increase in the PBS safety net, it is going to be incredibly difficult for the elderly. The lack of bulk-billing doctors in Richmond and the recent broken promise relating to the increase in the safety net make it very difficult for elderly people in my electorate to access the services they desperately need. There is no doubt that aged care in Richmond is in crisis, and that is exactly the information this summit provided to me. From all of the local aged care providers at the summit I heard that aged care is in crisis in Richmond and the Howard government has to address that now.