|Friday, 03 September 2010 16:45 | Print page:|
The Productivity Commission’s Inquiry, Caring for Older Australians is underway.
The Commissioners are expected to report on their findings by April 2011 with an interim report by December this year. Submissions to the Inquiry were due at the end of July and are still being received now. You can read the submissions here.
Some of us were extremely cynical when the Labor Government announced it was dispatching the fraught issue of aged care off for another review. Surely there have been enough reviews, inquiries, committees etc exposing the many cracks in Australia’s ageing aged-care system in recent times.
Another inquiry was simply a mechanism to deprive the issue of oxygen just before an election was due. One only has to listen to some of the interviews given by Justine Elliot, the Minister for Ageing, prior to the election, to realise how convenient it was to be able gloss over any difficult issue and to pass the buck over to the Productivity Commission.
Yet the issue of aged care is a conundrum in so many ways. Often it is easy to think that this is a subject that people do not wish to consider. It reminds us of our own impending old age and the powerlessness that so often come with it. The frail old person is not the person we wish to be - so best to forget about the end of life while we can!
Yet, on the other hand, I have noticed that when the subject of conditions in nursing homes comes up in the media there is usually a huge response and an outpouring of impassioned comment.
As well, the Productivity Commission inquiry has elicited an enormous number of submissions. Many of these come from within the sector and from various stakeholders. But there are many from individuals who make powerful pleas for reform - on the basis of their (usually dispiriting) aged-care experiences.
Aged Care Crisis has made a fulsome submission too. (Not yet published on the Productivity Commission website at the time of writing.) It is based on the many responses received from families with loved ones in residential care and from staff members who struggle to provide the care they know residents need. It is astounding how the issue of insufficient staff to care for our oldest and frailest can be left to languish - unresolved – with politicians and aged-care bureaucrats refusing to admit that there are more people than ever with high care needs in our aged-care homes and fewer trained staff to care for them.
Aged Care Crisis also draws attention to the need for a consumer voice in aged care. For too long policies and practices in aged care have been made without listening to those who are most affected by the decisions made. Then there is the issue of the lack of transparency, accountability and disclosure throughout the sector. For example, how many of us have tried to find out just who runs the home we are considering for our family member only to get lost in a maze of legal entities? Or perhaps we have tried to discover out how many staff on duty at any shift – just to be met with a blank wall.
There is so much to be done to improve aged care. The community wants to see it happen – soon. The Productivity Commission Inquiry and ensuing report feels like the last chance for frail, older people. Here’s hoping the Commissioners meet the challenge and whatever government we might have by then listens and acts.
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