Aged care system is failing the elderly: MP

Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly has weighed in on Bupa Tumut’s sanctions from last month, saying that the problem with the aged care facility was just one example of an alarming trend across his electorate and the state.

“We had a similar situation happen in Eden so certainly in the local area we are not immune,” Mr Kelly said.

Early last month, Bupa’s Tumut facility was sanctioned by the Department of Health, which found that there was an immediate and severe risk to the safety, health and well-being of residents following an assessment from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

It declared the facility would not be able to receive any new patients for a minimum of three months or until it could show that it had lifted its standards.

“I’ve been aware of problems in our region for some time. I’ve been meeting nurses and aged-care workers who have been pushed and pulled, have had immense pressures put on them and have not been able to do the things they need to do due to constraints,” Mr Kelly said.

“In one case, a staff member was not able to sit with a long-time resident during their last moments because they didn’t have time because they were under-staffed.

“Nurses have told me about the heartache and mental stress of working in the industry and of having to take that burden home with them.”

Like many, Mr Kelly had often suspected issues within the industry, but said that he was disturbed when he heard the allegations from the Royal Commission into aged care.  He pointed to Tumut’s facility as merely a microcosm of a broader problem.

“There needs to be a whole re-imagining, re-visiting of how we do aged care in Australia that involves increased automation and work involved with proper staffing,” Mr Kelly said.

“We know the horrifying statistics that 40,000 jobs are vacant, of which 20,000 of those are medical positions. In the regional centres this is even more exacerbated.”

Mr Kelly said that regional communities looking out for their elderly residents and being conscious of problems within the system was holding the government to account. 

“It’s not all doom and gloom. I think communities are pulling together and seeking to see something done around this issue. Communities like Tumut are compassionate and care about what happens to others,” he said.  

“But the bottom line is these aged care facilities are suffering from these state government initiatives that make no sense. In some places, we are putting more pressure on CanAssist when it really just shouldn’t be like that.”

Under Labor’s direction, a return to big spending on more home care incentives for elderly residents are what Mr Kelly believes voters want.

“We know that people prefer to be at home for as long as they can, which is why labor have supported trying to invest money in home care options. We know how much it is going to cost but it’s what people want. Instead, this government is taking money out of aged care,” he said.

“We were taking a lot of steps to bring these issues under control when labor was in government. It shows that if you fund in home care properly its in the best interest of the community.

“We would want to fund in home care and invest more in medical research and development and medications.

Mr Kelly said that he was not happy with the state of aged-care facilities and medical facilities in Tumut and that he was looking forward to the key findings of the Royal Commission, expected to emerge next year.

“There are many issues on many levels that need to be dealt with and we will watch very carefully what the findings from the Royal Commission show us and I look forward to those findings guiding us with policy developments from here,” he said.

As part of the sanctions, Bupa Tumut was told by the Health Department to appoint an advisor to assist with compliance with care services and an administrator to assist with governance, each for a six month interval.

It was also told that an appropriate number of skilled and qualified staff must be employed in order to comply with the Accreditation Standards, meaning that it may have to alter the number of residents.