HEALTH industry leaders have demanded major changes following a shocking Royal Commission report describing the nation’s aged care as “cruel and harmful” and older Australians in nursing care as “just another body to be washed, fed and mobilised”.
“It’s distressing to hear how the current system has failed to deliver older Australians the care, dignity and respect they deserve,” Catholic Health Australia chief executive Pat Garcia said.
“All of us in the sector must listen carefully and be ready to make significant changes to how people are looked after.”
Formal recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety are not due until November 2020, however the interim report handed down on November 1 lists shameful failings requiring urgent action.
Topping the list is the widespread inadequate management of wounds, sometimes leading to septicaemia and death.
There is poor continence management, with aged-care residents often left “sitting or lying in urine and faeces”.
The food in aged-care homes is “dreadful”; malnutrition is widespread.
Assaults are commonplace, on both residents and staff.
Old people are sedated en masse.
Palliative care is “patchy and fragmented” – underlining the dire need for more resources and funds to be spent.
“It is shameful that such a list can be produced in 21st century Australia,” the interim report said.
“At the heart of these problems lies the fundamental fact that our aged-care system essentially depersonalises older people.
“A routine thoughtless act – the cup of coffee placed too far from the hand of a person with limited movement so that they cannot drink it, the call buzzer from someone left unanswered, the meal left uneaten with no effort to help – when repeated day after day, becomes unkindness and often cruelty.
“This is how ‘care’ becomes ‘neglect’.”
While the final recommendations are still a year away, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised extra aged-care funding will flow before Christmas.
Mr Garcia said action could start by urgently addressing the financial pressures faced by residential providers.
“In the short term, the introduction of more high-level home-care packages and an immediate injection of funds, pending the completion of work on a new funding model for residential aged care, would be beneficial,” he said.
“We also believe there should be an increase to the viability supplement for rural and remote services, a large proportion of whom are operating at a loss and do not have the reserves of bigger operators.
“This could be delivered as part of a drought relief package and would be a hugely significant help for aged-care services in the bush.
“We respectfully suggest these constructive ways forward are readily implementable, and will still allow for more systemic, evidence-based reform to be developed.”