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National site risk visits to all 30 Indigenous aged care services to identify safety risks and emergency works.



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THE HON JUSTINE ELLIOT MP

Minister for Ageing

MEDIA RELEASE

13 October 2008

National site risk visits to all 30 Indigenous aged care services to identify safety risks and emergency works

This week, the Australian Government will begin to conduct national quality site visits to all 30 flexible Indigenous-specific aged care services so it can identify safety risks and the need for emergency works.

The quality site visits would examine the level of care services, overall safety, appropriateness of staffing levels and governance.

Early next year, the Department of Health and Ageing would work with each service to implement a building and maintenance action plan - funded through the $46.2 million Indigenous Aged Care plan.

In addition, the Federal Government will fund fire protection devices in an effort to reduce the risk of injury of elders. This is because elders may gather around traditional open fire pits at Indigenous-specific aged care services. The $500,000 program is part of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Aged Care plan.

“This is about improving the quality of aged care for Indigenous Australians,” Minister for Ageing, Mrs Justine Elliot said.

“This plan is about providing proper care for older Indigenous people while still being respectful to their cultural needs,” Mrs Elliot said.

“We will continue to consult with and take the advice of Indigenous communities and the Indigenous aged care sector.”

The announcement of the site visits follows a bi-partisan visit to the Northern Territory on October 9.

Mrs Elliot and Federal Opposition Shadow Minister for Ageing, Mrs Margaret May undertook a visit to the Kalano Flexible Aged Care Service near Katherine and a respite aged care service run by Frontier Services at Mutitjulu near Uluru to get a first-hand view of Indigenous aged care.

After the visit, Mrs May and Mrs Elliot in a joint statement said: “This is about putting aside our differences and working in partnership. We have agreed to take a bi-partisan approach to Indigenous aged care. It is also about listening, and seeing the unique circumstances first hand.”

On September 22, Mrs Elliot announced preliminary details of the Indigenous Aged Care plan to improve the long-term quality of Indigenous aged care and the independent assessment of the Department of Health and Ageing’s handling of the Docker River Flexible Aboriginal Aged Care Service.

In Australia, there are 29 nursing homes with a significant Indigenous population and 30 Indigenous-specific flexible services - providing about 700 places. The Australian Government has recognised the vulnerability of isolated indigenous aged care services.

The Indigenous Aged Care plan includes:

• Setting - for the first time - an independent set of quality standards applied to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program services; and

• A $46.2 million program to support care staff and management, provide locum relief and improve facilities as well as carry out emergency works.

The flexible services are outside the Aged Care Act 1997, which oversees nursing home standards in Australia.

The new quality standards will apply to flexible services - which started to be established from 1994 - to provide services in Indigenous communities that may not be able to support a suburban nursing home.

Open fire pits

The Federal Government will fund fire protection devices where elders may gather around traditional open fire pits at Indigenous-specific aged care services.

The $500,000 program is part of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Aged Care plan.

On June 14, 2007, an indigenous resident with dementia, Dulcie Brumby, 70, at Docker River Flexible Aged Care service died as a result of burns after falling into an open pit fire.

In Federal Parliament, the Minister for Ageing, Mrs Justine Elliot described it as an “appalling tragedy” and officially extended condolences to the Brumby family. The death was the subject of a report by the Northern Territory Deputy Coroner, Dr Celia Kemp.

In addition, Mrs Elliot ordered an independent assessment by Aged Care Commissioner, Ms Rhonda Parker of the Department of Health and Ageing’s handling of the service. That assessment is now underway and Ms Parker has already visited Docker River.

For more information, contact Mrs Elliot's office on (02) 6277 7280