Parliament to review aged care financial transparency Bill

2 Nov 2020

A Bill introduced by Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie that seeks to bring in greater financial transparency in the residential aged care sector has been referred to a Parliamentary Inquiry.

The Private Member’s Bill, if passed by the Parliament, would require aged care providers to disclose their income, costs of food and medication, staff and staff training, accommodation, administration and monies paid to parent bodies in annual financial transparency reports to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner.

The Bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport but a date for public submissions is yet to be set.

"In my time in office, I have been approached numerous times by constituents deeply worried about the quality of the food served to their loved ones and the number of staff available to help with feeding and hygiene,” Rebekha said.

“This legislation will enable families of loved ones, stakeholders and the public to have a clear view, for the first time, on the proportion of income that providers actually spend on costs of care and how much is just being pocketed or wasted.

“Australia cannot wait for the final report of the Royal Commission and the delays in dealing with the pandemic to have greater transparency about the financing of the aged care sector. We must act now.

“Estia Health, Japara and Regis Healthcare are all residential aged care providers, and all ASX listed companies.

“According to recent investigations conducted by The Saturday Paper, the trio have received a combined $8.4 billion in revenue from Government subsidies and resident charges in just the last five years alone.

"At the same time, these three companies have paid out $600 million to shareholders.

“We've heard allegations of directors of aged care companies who have had the ability to use their funds to buy luxury cars.

“There's money in offshore bank accounts. We hear allegations of where rent is more than double the commercial rate, with money being funnelled back into church coffers.

“At the other end of the spectrum, reports carried out by Stewart Brown Advisor earlier this year – and pre-Covid – show that 75 per cent of aged care providers in rural and regional areas are operating at a cash loss and questions remain as to whether small community-based providers can remain viable.

"There are a number of not-for-profit facilities in Mayo that were built thanks to the generosity of local communities and are being sustained by the hard work of local communities. This precarious situation cannot continue indefinitely.

“Clearly, something has gone horribly wrong in the financial management of the aged care sector but without shedding a light on each aged care facility, we won’t know the extent of the damage.

“My Bill simply seeks information from providers so the Government, and the public, will have a clearer picture of how facilities are resourced.

“This will be crucial if we as a Parliament are to engage in sustainable reforms to the sector that will improve the experience and treatment of vulnerable elderly people living in residential aged care.”

Rebekha’s Bill mirrors legislation introduced into Federal Parliament by her Centre Alliance colleague Senator Stirling Griff.

That Bill is being considered by a Senate inquiry which is scheduled to report in late November.

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