By Matthew Lau
After receiving more than 5100 submissions, the Federal Government has last week announced its terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison named WA Supreme Court Judge Joseph McGrath and former Australian Public Service commissioner Lynelle Briggs AO as the royal commissioners.
They will release an interim report into the aged care sector on 31 October next year, with the final report due on 30 April 2020.
On 16 September, the Morrison Government declared a royal commission will be held into aged care facilities – focusing on the quality of care in residential, home, and community aged care.
Mr Morrison said the inquiry will be based in Adelaide, with additional hearings to be held around the country as well as hearing evidence via video and other formats.
The Prime Minister of Australia has promised a “future-focused” royal commission that will learn from the mistakes of the past, and instil a national “culture of respect” towards elderly people.
WA Catholic aged care providers shared their views on the situation with The eRecord.
MercyCare Interim Chief Executive David Holden said: “MercyCare fully supports the Royal Commission to ensure that the future of care for Australia’s elderly can be properly and independently addressed, and we share the community’s expectation for quality and compassionate care for all of our older Australians”.
Adjunct Professor Stephen Cornelissen, Chief Executive of Mercy Health Group, echoed Mr Holden’s sentiments.
“As an organisation, Mercy Health’s clear focus is on doing what is best for our aged care residents and clients at every interaction, and we have robust systems and processes in place to monitor the care and environment provided.
“However, the aged care industry as a whole can do better,” Prof Cornelissen stated.
“The Royal Commission provides a generational opportunity to look at the way we value, fund and operate aged care to better support the vulnerable people who have been entrusted into our care.”
Catholic Homes Chief Executive John Fitzgerald said Catholic Homes is in favour of the opportunity to have an honest community discussion about ageing and death, what aged care in Australia should look like in the future, and what we are prepared to pay for it as a community.
“It was heartening the Government is asking for a forward-thinking and future-focused review of aged care with actionable recommendations that will allow Australians to age with dignity and purpose,” Mr Fitzgerald expressed.
“At Catholic Homes, our ‘Care with Purpose’ model of person-centred support and care allows for choice and wellness for all our clients and residents and for them to be treated with love, joy, and hospitality.”
Errol Turner, Chief Executive of Southern Cross Care (SCC) WA, said the SCC Group is proud of its ability to consistently provide excellent care, accommodation and support to its residents and their families.
“Over the past few years, we have – like many other aged care providers – had to navigate through the challenging environment that exists within the aged care sector, due largely to legislative changes that have resulted in staged deregulation, increased compliance, and reduced government funding,” Mr Turner added.
“As we look ahead, it is essential that the wider aged care sector has the right framework in place to ensure as an industry we can adequately respond to the complex care and health needs of our ageing population.”
Mr Turner also believes it is vitally important that aged care operators who are not delivering the required standards of care, should be held accountable both legally and publicly for their actions.
“As such, SCC welcomes the recently announced Royal Commission into aged care, which we hope will provide productive and positive outcomes for both aged care recipients and aged care providers.
“While we await further details of the Royal Commission, it is vital that the industry continues to identify opportunities to enhance the aged care offerings that are currently available and continue implementing initiatives that will provide more choice and certainty for older Australians.”
St John of God Health Care Group Chief Executive Dr Shane Kelly said that while SJOG is not a residential aged care provider, it supports the response provided by Catholic Health Australia on “this very important matter”.
The latest findings from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s GEN Aged Care Data revealed that 47 per cent of people in permanent residential aged care on 30 June 2017 had depression – the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition.
The same data reports 63 per cent of people in permanent residential aged care were rated with a high care need for cognition and behaviour.
Women outnumber men in aged care service by two to one because, on average, they live longer and have higher care needs.
Governments spent $17.4 billion on aged care in 2016-17, of which, 69 per cent was for residential aged care.