Media release: Inquiry 'Caring for older Australians' - an opportunity lost
8 August 2011

The Productivity Commission has given us a blue print for the funding and restructuring of aged care but has omitted to address the heart of the problem – how to provide frail, aged Australians with high quality care.

The Commissioners have largely neglected the critical issues of aged-care staffing which are fundamental to the provision of high level care.

  • There is no recommendation requiring mandated staff/resident ratios in all aged-care homes although this was a key issue mentioned in many submissions to the Commission.
  • Although the Report acknowledges the significance of the aged-care workforce, there is limited attention given to how to retain competent and caring staff or how to achieve the skilling of the aged-care workforce - both matters of great concern to both who use the system and those who work in it.
  • There is insufficient focus on how quality clinical care is to be delivered to frail, aged Australians - many of whom have complex, high care needs.

Much of the rhetoric associated with this Report is about ‘choice’ and opening up aged care to further competition.

The Productivity Commission suggests that exposing aged care to market forces even more - by removing restrictions on the number of bed licenses, community care packages and other services will solve the problems besetting the sector. It is hoped that consumers will choose the better places and services and the poorer ones will wither.

However, vulnerable frail, aged people are not your average consumers and are generally not in a situation to be able pick and choose.

  • Older people don’t ‘choose’ to move into an aged-care home as they would move house.
  • Decisions are often made at a time of considerable trauma – and considerations of immediacy and location generally prevail.
  • Lack of accurate and relevant information makes informed choice difficult.
  • The salient fact is that once in residential care, lifestyle choices diminish rather than increase.

The Report addresses the issue of how best to fund aged care with a series of payment options including reverse mortgages, daily charges and bonds - these to be aligned to the real cost of accommodation.

Yet there is no guarantee that when frail Australians pay this increased amount that the quality of care provided will actually be improved.

There must be further assurance that there will be a truly independent regulation of the cost of care and full transparency as to how funding is expended. This is essential - given the number of for-profit operators within the sector.

Aged Care Crisis is concerned that this report reflects the interests of aged-care providers and does not give due emphasis to the concerns expressed by family members and aged-care staff as expressed in their many submissions to the Commission.