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Monday, 22 October 2018
Page: 10549

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (10:08): I rise today in my capacity as the Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport to second the motion. Can I thank the member for North Sydney, the chairman of our committee, for initially presenting the report on the inquiry into the quality of care in residential aged-care facilities in Australia to the House today. I sincerely hope that this report will be taken seriously and urgently, not only by the government but also by all those who are reading it and caring for our older Australians. I would also like to thank the chairman and all the other members for their commitment to a bipartisan approach to this report. We did so in a bipartisan way because of the seriousness of this inquiry.

We've heard in this place over the last few weeks when we've been debating aged-care bills that older Australians deserve better, and they do deserve better. They deserve better from governments, from agencies, from aged-care facilities and from all who are involved with our older Australians. They deserve better from all of us. As I said, we heard the chair say just now that, of course, they're the people who have worked and built this country for us to enjoy. They deserve better from a system that has failed them, as we've seen from different reports on Four Corners and the Oakden saga in South Australia, which, of course, has brought upon us a royal commission, and rightly so.

As the chairman explained previously, the committee has put forward a number of serious recommendations that need to be considered and ultimately addressed. Australians are living longer. There could be close to 8.7 million older people living in Australia by 2056. That'll be over one in five of the total population. With that number, dementia rates are expected to increase to around one million by 2056—one million people with dementia, let alone the others that require to be cared for.

We've seen failures in the system in many states around Australia, and we all expect that the royal commission will uncover more. We heard many witnesses present to our inquiry with a number of stories. The number of aged-care complaints, we heard in the report, has increased 23 per cent, with the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner dealing with most of the concerns. In dealing with this inquiry what really struck me—and, I'm sure, all the other committee members and our chair—was the number of reports made and the subsequent lack of follow-through on resolutions that actually deal with the complaints. In 2017-18, there were 4,315 complaints relating to residential aged care made to the commissioner. Around 66 per cent of those were made by a family member. Of the complaints made, only a fraction were resolved. We discovered a number of issues that were raised regarding the complaint handling process. We heard evidence from people who complained about time frame issues, capacity issues, cost barriers, communication issues and fear of reprisal for staff, residents, their carers and their families.

When the committee travelled to Melbourne, we asked a question of one of the witnesses about complaints: 'How many complaints were received and finalised in a reasonable time frame?' It was revealed that, out of the 4,713 residential home care complaints, there were only 52 visits to the facilities. Of those complaints, 92 per cent were resolved in early resolution. But I worry about the eight per cent that were not. Some of those cases took over 180 days—and some even longer than that. It is easy to see why people in the system feel they are not taken seriously when a complaint is made. This was evident throughout the inquiry.

I won't go over again the things the member for North Sydney has already said, but we need to get smarter about this. We need to care for our older people. We heard these things in our inquiry. One of the things that needs to be addressed immediately is that we need to ensure that residential aged-care facilities provide for a minimum of one registered nurse to be on site at all times and specifically monitor and report on standards of care, including complaints and findings of elder abuse. In closing, I would like to thank the committee staff, who made the arrangements for everything, and my fellow committee members and our chair. Special thanks go to Stephanie Mikac and Carissa Skinner for their very hard work.

The SPEAKER: The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for North Sydney wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a later occasion?