News & Events

Time for systemic change in aged care

September 8, 2020

 The situation in Victorian aged care with high incidences of positive coronavirus cases and an ongoing battle to manage the coronavirus– reflects the growing concern that the Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria has about the aged care model in Australia, and how aged care is perceived in the community.

In a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, OCAV said it is time to stop criticising the people working in the sector and look hard at the systems in place.

Phillip Wohlers, CEO, said: “Frankly the lack of systems and the lack of pandemic planning for and with the aged care sector has created the “perfect storm” for the current situation in Victoria.”

According to Mr Wohlers, the situation is not just about funding. He points to a lack of clarity about who is responsible for what, the patchwork of politics which has left even the bureaucrats confused about their different roles, the lack of being able to access PPE easily, and the casualization of the workforce.

“Our submission says nothing which will be a surprise to the Commissioners. However it would be fair say that when the interim report Neglect came out last year, the finger was pointed at the sector. Today, I would point the finger back at the politicians,” he said.

There have been 29+ reviews into aged care over the past few years. These have well-considered recommendations, most of which have not been implemented. OCAV has argued in this submission, and previous submissions to the Productivity Commission, that it is vital to define the kind of care that is needed for the future, as well as what the nation appears to want, and then to clarify how the current model needs to change.

“This, together with a review of past recommendations, should influence decisions about improving the aged care system in Australia.”

Mr Wohlers said he was pleased to see that that research commissioned by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has revealed that Australians support paying extra taxes to ensure aged care is properly funded.

“We hope that this is noted and enacted upon in the findings. However, the answer is not simply ‘more money’ – there is also the need for the relationship between providers and the Government to be renegotiated. Systemic change is needed.”

He says that talking about these problems and trying to meet new bars of expectation and compliance in an environment where there is no collaboration between providers, the legislator and the Quality and Safety Commission is highly problematic.

“The pandemic has brought these issues to a head, and resolution is swiftly needed.”

The OCAV has made several recommendations including increasing funding to train and educate all staff working inside aged care, and not just about coronavirus.

“In addition to dealing with the immediate issue of COVID-19, aged care also needs to be prepared for an increase in the number of people living with dementia, with a multitude of chronic diseases, and diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds,” Phillip said.

“Ageing in aged care is about more than medical interventions, it will mean promoting preventive health measures – including therapies such as art and music.”

He also wants to see the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission work to support continuous improvement rather than focus on highlighting mistakes, saying it would lead to a more robust sector with improvements for residents.

Mr Wohlers paid tribute in the submission to his team at Liscombe House and the planning work they undertook, the infection control management which has long been in place, and the ability of everyone to come together when the aged care home had to lockdown after a staff member was tested positive.

“It has not been an easy year, and we are still not through it. But the various measures we put in place and actioned immediately have paid off for the moment. None of us are complacent, and we are particularly concerned about the well-being of every person whatever they do,” Phillip said.

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