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Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Page: 2462

Ms STEGGALL (Warringah) (10:30): I rise to speak on the Aged Care Amendment (Movement of Provisionally Allocated Places) Bill 2019. I commend the government on allowing approved providers of residential aged care to move provisionally allocated residential aged-care places from one region to another within a state or territory and for allowing approved providers to operationalise a residential aged-care place more quickly. This will allow the more efficient allocation of resources.

In Warringah, 15.7 per cent of the total population is aged over 65 years, and this will significantly increase as 55.1 per cent of the population will be 65 and over by 2036. The complex needs of an ageing population will impose an increasing demand on healthcare services. The elderly deserve respectful, affordable, accessible and safe aged-care options. Warringah residents want aged care that promotes independence and wellbeing with choices so people can stay at home longer while being healthy and connected, and more options for a suitable mix of home help and medical support. And, if residential care is the right choice for them, it must be safe and secure and appropriately resourced to support wellbeing.

While the royal commission is revealing some shocking problems in the sector, in our aged-care system there are other challenges as well. There are almost 130,000 Australians in the home care priority queue with many waiting more than a year for assistance. Once funding is granted, home care providers are taking a large amount of the funding in administration costs and profit. Families face a lack of accountability, little information on provider performance, and hidden charges and exit fees. In residential care, many find a lack of registered nurses and other needed care, which contributes to more residents ending up in hospital emergency departments. Residents also find aged care isolating and to the detriment of their mental health, and when they try and reach out they discover a lack of access to mental health services.

That is why I am calling on the government to provide more flexible Medicare funding for home help, telehealth and medical support, provide more information on providers to support informed choices, implement the recommendations of the aged care royal commission when they come to hand, support wellness programs to reduce loneliness and improve mental health, and increase funding for dementia care.

While this bill will allow the more efficient allocation of provisional places, we must also discuss not just access to placements for our elderly but the quality of care our elderly receive when in our aged-care system. We know that properly staffed homes are essential to welfare, but people do not know if homes are adequately staffed before they send their parents or relatives to residency. That is why I also support the member for Mayo's private member's bill, which is the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2019. This bill will require providers to disclose their carer-to-patient ratio. Older Australians deserve our support and our every effort on their behalf to improve their quality of care.