QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS Earle Haven Retirement Village

July 23, 2019

 

 

 

Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:24):  Just listening to the comments here in the chamber, it's important that this Senate understands that more than 129,000 older Australians are languishing waiting for care. The answers to the questions today focus not on the immediate movement that should have occurred, but also on the immediate movement that should occur still across the country in terms of the care of our seniors. In the Northern Territory, there are 34 people in the Royal Darwin Hospital alone who should be in aged care. The lack of home care packages and funded aged care beds is impacting on our public hospital system, with bed shortages and overcrowding.

I certainly want to see the current minister go to the Northern Territory to see for himself how older Territorians die waiting for packages and appropriate care. I'd certainly like to see him out in our remote communities, the remote regions of the Northern Territory, where there is an acute shortage of aged care services, so that he can get a clear understanding of where this government is failing. He needs to talk to the Indigenous elders. They want to live out their lives caring and being cared for on country; passing on songs, their kujika, their map, their song line and their stories to the younger generation. But they can't, because there are no aged care facilities in some of these communities.

I'd certainly like to see this government properly fund our aged care services so the unacceptable wait list for home care packages is reduced so people don't die waiting. In the Northern Territory, the Council on the Ageing has long called for a good look into the aged care licensing system and how it is operating there. COTA NT, who do a fantastic job advocating for older Territorians, want to see the appointment of an aged care quality and safety commissioner who could do spot checks on service providers to ensure that people are getting the services and the packages they qualify for. Such a position could go a long way to making sure the situation at Earle Haven in Queensland isn't replicated anywhere else in Australia and, in particular, in the Northern Territory. 16,000 Australians died in any year waiting for a home care package that meets their needs.

National Seniors Australia have been very clear about the impact of the chronic shortage of home care packages across the country. They've described this government's neglect of seniors as a form of elder abuse and a national emergency.

National Seniors Australia's chief advocate, Ian Henschke, called for urgent action again this week. As this government has shown today by their responses to the very valid questions raised by my colleagues, there is a disrespectful lack of urgency to create change and ensure that vulnerable Australians are well looked after. Yes, there is a royal commission underway. But that cannot be used as an excuse not to act immediately on the day-to-day issues that are impacting this country.

We shouldn't have to remind this government that at the end of 2017 the waiting list for home care packages was 104,000. When the royal commission opened in January this year, it was 128,000 and was described as cruel, unfair, disrespectful and discriminatory by the counsel assisting the commission. Six months on, the wait list has blown out by more than another 1,000 older Australians. They know that 1,000 Australians turn 80 each week. These are our loved ones, people at a fragile stage of life who want to remain in their homes under the supported care of their families. Yet this government refuses to prioritise the care of our elders. They take their eyes off the ball, and even those who do receive packages can end up on the street.

Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:24):  Just listening to the comments here in the chamber, it's important that this Senate understands that more than 129,000 older Australians are languishing waiting for care. The answers to the questions today focus not on the immediate movement that should have occurred, but also on the immediate movement that should occur still across the country in terms of the care of our seniors. In the Northern Territory, there are 34 people in the Royal Darwin Hospital alone who should be in aged care. The lack of home care packages and funded aged care beds is impacting on our public hospital system, with bed shortages and overcrowding.

I certainly want to see the current minister go to the Northern Territory to see for himself how older Territorians die waiting for packages and appropriate care. I'd certainly like to see him out in our remote communities, the remote regions of the Northern Territory, where there is an acute shortage of aged care services, so that he can get a clear understanding of where this government is failing. He needs to talk to the Indigenous elders. They want to live out their lives caring and being cared for on country; passing on songs, their kujika, their map, their song line and their stories to the younger generation. But they can't, because there are no aged care facilities in some of these communities.

I'd certainly like to see this government properly fund our aged care services so the unacceptable wait list for home care packages is reduced so people don't die waiting. In the Northern Territory, the Council on the Ageing has long called for a good look into the aged care licensing system and how it is operating there. COTA NT, who do a fantastic job advocating for older Territorians, want to see the appointment of an aged care quality and safety commissioner who could do spot checks on service providers to ensure that people are getting the services and the packages they qualify for. Such a position could go a long way to making sure the situation at Earle Haven in Queensland isn't replicated anywhere else in Australia and, in particular, in the Northern Territory. 16,000 Australians died in any year waiting for a home care package that meets their needs.

National Seniors Australia have been very clear about the impact of the chronic shortage of home care packages across the country. They've described this government's neglect of seniors as a form of elder abuse and a national emergency.

National Seniors Australia's chief advocate, Ian Henschke, called for urgent action again this week. As this government has shown today by their responses to the very valid questions raised by my colleagues, there is a disrespectful lack of urgency to create change and ensure that vulnerable Australians are well looked after. Yes, there is a royal commission underway. But that cannot be used as an excuse not to act immediately on the day-to-day issues that are impacting this country.

We shouldn't have to remind this government that at the end of 2017 the waiting list for home care packages was 104,000. When the royal commission opened in January this year, it was 128,000 and was described as cruel, unfair, disrespectful and discriminatory by the counsel assisting the commission. Six months on, the wait list has blown out by more than another 1,000 older Australians. They know that 1,000 Australians turn 80 each week. These are our loved ones, people at a fragile stage of life who want to remain in their homes under the supported care of their families. Yet this government refuses to prioritise the care of our elders. They take their eyes off the ball, and even those who do receive packages can end up on the street.

Read Hansard here.