• Older people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect

    Protecting the most frail, vulnerable, older individuals who need specialised and complex care and support in residential care is a major concern for our society, not just aged care providers.

    As our population ages, the need for these services will continue to grow, and it is imperative that we meet this demand with high-quality care. However, funding has not kept up with the changing needs of residents, who are increasingly frail.

    The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is investigating the structural failings of the aged care system in order to understand and plan for a future aged care system that offers the high-quality care Australians expect and deserve.

    Aged care is a social responsibility and a public good that the government is ultimately accountable for. It is a federal responsibility.

    The Commission is hearing that aged care and health care are managed and governed as separate systems. The Australian Government is fully responsible for aged care and the states and territories for the public health system.

    An effective COVID-19 response in aged care requires an integrated health and aged care strategy. In South Australia, we have seen a cooperative and consultative approach between the state authorities and the aged care sector, which has led to improved understanding of what is required for collaborative working relationships for the best possible outcomes for people receiving aged care services.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many of the challenges faced by the aged care sector into sharp focus. At the recent August hearing in Sydney of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which inquired into the response to COVID-19 in aged care, Senior Counsel Assisting, Peter Rozen QC described the outbreak as the greatest challenge the Australian aged care sector has ever faced. Later that week, the Prime Minister addressed the nation to say that he was deeply sorry for the shortcomings of the aged care sector.

    With the Royal Commission now extended to February next year, we can only hope that the level of public interest in the sector can be maintained until then and that there will be sufficient impetus to have the recommendations implemented.