On Anzac Day we have the opportunity to pay our respect and honour those who served our country during times of conflict. It is a privilege to hear the stories of courage and resilience from people who may now, deservedly, receive aged care and support services.
It was pleasing that the government has recognised the importance of protecting our older Australians by prioritising them in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older Australians in residential care homes continue to be vaccinated, albeit more slowly than first anticipated.
What is extremely disappointing is that the frontline workers who provide care and support to these residents, who were originally identified as a priority in the first phase, seem to have been relegated to wait in the queue for the vaccine. Only a small percentage of residential aged care staff have received their vaccination. The delay is most unfortunate. It would be a terrible shame if these front line workers are not prioritised in the revised rollout. Another complication is the timing of 2021 influenza vaccinations, which are compulsory for these workers.
It is apparent that the government has already begun implementing several recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, including the new Serious Incident Response Scheme, which commenced in April. Most responsible providers already report such incidents internally, but now must also report them to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission within strict timeframes. At the same time, each and every resident is currently being assessed under a new funding tool. Additionally, two more mandatory clinical indicators and increased financial reporting requirements will also be introduced later this year.
By the time of the Budget announcement in May, the federal government will be able to report on the actions that they have already taken to increase compliance and reporting. It is imperative that they also commit to the funding and system changes desperately needed to provide quality aged care and support, to enable older Australians to live an active, self-determined and meaningful life.
Australia needs a sustainable aged care sector. Industry peaks recently released their response to the Royal Commission, “Aged Care: The Way Forward”. To show your support, visit https://www.careaboutagedcare.org.au/ and sign the petition “It’s time to care about aged care”.