Packed house for forum with Aged Care Minister

Packed house for forum with Aged Care Minister

More than 250 people packed the McCracken Convention Centre for a public forum on Tuesday with the Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt and Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, left, with Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and Senator Stirling Griff at the roundtable discussion with local aged care providers at Strathalbyn.

The forum was part of the Minister's one-day visit to the electorate which also involved a roundtable discussion with aged care service providers at Strathalbyn in the morning and a visit to Southern Cross Care’s Sandpiper Lodge facility in Goolwa.

“I’m incredibly grateful that the Minister came and gave us his whole day to meet with stakeholders, to tour Sandpiper Lodge and then to have an extended Q&A with 250 local residents at McCracken,” Rebekha said.

“What I know when I talk with people who are in their 70s and retired is that in many cases they are also supporting mum or dad who are in their 90s and older.

"It’s very clear we need to make sure we’ve got the facilities, the spaces both residential and in the community and the workforce for the next period of time.

“Mayo is the oldest electorate in South Australia.  One in five residents in my electorate is aged over 65, so this is an issue that is at the forefront of my mind.

“I’m also concerned about the loneliness issues the Minister raised yesterday and I think we as a community can do more."

"I’m looking forward to talking with service groups and local schools about how we can make sure in our own residential communities we don’t meet that average of 40 per cent of people not being visited by a single person for a whole year.

“We can do better than that as a community.”

Minister Wyatt, the Member for Hasluck in Western Australia, told the public forum at Victor Harbor that up to 40 per cent of people in residential aged care had no visitors during the year and he had visited a facility where 100 per cent of residents received no visitors.

He also spoke about the looming issue of providing a workforce for the aged care sector.

At present, the sector employs around 366,000 people but the Productivity Commission estimates the industry will need an extra 940,000 workers by 2050.

Staff-to-resident ratios in aged care facilities and extended waiting times for home care packages were two of the issues raised residents at the public forum.

Minister Wyatt said that the Government did not legislate minimum staffing levels.

However, aged care providers were required to meet 44 standards under the Aged Care Quality Agency’s Quality of Care Principles and one of the standards was that facilities needed to have appropriately skilled and qualified staff to deliver services.

If facilities failed the standards, they could be shut down and the Minister said he had closed five facilities in the past year.

In relation to waiting times for home care packages, Minister Wyatt told the forum that the Government did not have a clear picture of the waiting lists for home care packages when the system switched from funding aged care service providers to funding individual clients in February 2017.

In the first quarter of 2017 the waiting list was 20,000. A year later that list stands at 102,000.

Minister Wyatt said he was working through the budget process to secure funding for extra places.

“Once you assign all of the money, this is no more, and that’s why we have been saying to people just hang onto the package you have been assigned until we free up some more package fours because that estimation should not have happened right back at the beginning.

“That’s the problem we have got – it’s not an excuse – but we are looking ways we can try and help.”

The Minister said the Department was also looking at the assessment practices because a significant number of clients were being graded for a package at a higher level than needed.