Aged care issues come to light after a Productivity Commission report

According to the New South Wales Council on the Ageing, the Productivity Commission's report on aged care could improve services in the south-east. Poor standards of care throughout the aged care industry have prompted the Productivity Commission to recommend a national independent audit of training standards for personal care workers.

The commission says the Government's limit on beds or support packages should be abolished and no-one should be forced to sell their home. The council says care cannot be regulated and it welcomes moves to introduce a reverse mortgage system.

CEO Ian Day says the region is expected to see a rapid increase in retirees. He said, “The ageing community in the south-east is going to grow at probably 130 per cent over the next 20-odd years… That's a huge increase in that period of time and we need to somehow fund the aged care needs for those people.”

National Seniors Australia added that the report does not take into account people with limited finances.

In the report the commission found that training colleges were issuing certificate III qualifications to workers after as little as a month. The report reads, “Frequently, we receive applications from newly qualified personal carers who have been 'fast-tracked' through a two-to-four week certificate III course who really have little idea of what they might be required to do on the job, having had insufficient course work and practical experience.” The commission said, “an independent and comprehensive review of aged care courses, such as a National Strategic Industry Audit, is warranted to identify why there is such large variability in course delivery and what improvements are necessary to ensure that students demonstrate pertinent competencies on a more consistent basis.” While the report called on the aged sector to pay higher wages to nurses and personal care workers to attract and keep good staff, the commission noted that improving the standard of training was equally as important.

Seniors rights advocate Carol Williams of Elder Care Watch called the commission's final report a “crashing criticism of the training standards”. “They've exposed a monumental failure of regulation, they've made a valuable contribution in revealing what's going on in the industry,” she said. Ms Williams said she felt the report's emphasis on creating a blueprint for the financial future of the industry meant the commission had not gone far enough in recommending tougher guidelines for quality of care. She said, “Their primary attention has been directed to who pays…Quality of care issues have been dealt with but not in same depth. The complaints process and accreditation process have not been major issues in this report.”

The commission has also called on the government to ease restrictions on the recruitment of foreign workers but also noted the need to make English language skills training a key component of local training.

The BUPA Care Services, which runs 47 aged care homes, has attacked the Productivity Commission's proposed aged care reforms warning they could rob businesses of $10 billion in capital they need to build new beds.

Managing Director of BUPA Care Services Paul Gregersen says the current aged care funding system which relies on lump sum accommodation bonds and daily charges “works well” and he questions why the government would change it. His organization has used the current funding system to open 190 new aged care beds last year, a further 112 beds this year and plans to spend $200 million building 440 new beds in NSW in the next two years.

Why would the Productivity Commission recommend a scenario that is likely to see the government take control of the $10 billion held in bonds which the industry uses to improve aged care services?” he asked. He fears the new structure proposed by the Productivity Commission which would allow the value of family home to be taken into account for the first time when assessing a resident's capacity to pay will see more residents paying more for their care.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard continued to promote a national conversation about the future of aged care, The Australian asked whether strong population growth was needed to pay for the growth in Australians who had retired from the workforce. She said, “We have to be a bit careful about how these two issues are connected…Migration programs do change your dependency ratios immediately in terms of numbers of taxpayers and numbers of older Australians, but they don't over time. Migration doesn't, over time, change your need to deal with ageing because those migrants too will age.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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