The title of today’s Interim Report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, ‘Neglect’, encapsulates aged care in Australia. Unfortunately, it’s that simple – the history of aged care in Australia is a story of woeful and increasing neglect, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The Commission’s Interim Report found that the system ‘fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring’.

ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said: “The Report outlines a shameful abrogation of duty by successive governments and many sections of the industry. And, frankly, an appalling lack of respect, regard and care for our elderly by the Australian community.

“It provides a recap of alarmingly widespread failures in care across the system, provides detail into some of the causes and starts to provide some direction for government and industry on solutions and outlines three areas where action should start immediately. A focus on extra Home Care Packages for over 100,000 Australians on waiting lists; reducing the use of physical and chemical restraints on nursing home residents and stopping younger people with a disability going into aged care facilities.

“The ANMF agrees those areas need urgent attention and action, but we don’t think the government should stop there – we can’t wait another year for action on other critical areas desperately needing reform.

“The Report recognises that workforce issues are relevant to every aspect of the Commission’s inquiry. We understand that the Interim Report was not able to include outcomes from the Commission’s Hearings held in October, including the Workforce Hearing, and that the Final Report will include detailed recommendations on attraction and retention; education and training; choosing the right staff; remuneration and careers; continuity of care; and staffing levels and staff mix.

“However, there is no need for the Government to continue to be ‘missing in action’ in addressing critical workforce issues. The Commissioners have clearly identified that ‘staffing is a critical element in ensuring the quality and safety of those in care. Services must have the right number of staff with the right skill mix, with compassion and empathy combined with knowledge of aged care and the illnesses and conditions of those in care.’ 

“So the Government must act – most importantly, they must act on the need to introduce mandated minimum staffing levels and skills mixes. There is no reason for any further delay, but there are pages and pages of reasons, as outlined in the Report, to act. 

“Mandated minimum staffing levels and skills mixes in residential in aged care is not the only solution required to fix the crisis in aged care but it is the centrepiece – many other solutions and improvements required are dependent on proper, safe and quality staffing in order to be effective. 

“The aged care workforce has held the system together for too long, workers can’t sustain their efforts much longer – action is needed now.”

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