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Regional hearings and forums for the Royal Commission into Aged Care

The latest hearings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety have wrapped up in Mudgee. The three day hearing inquired into the shortfalls and challenges in aged care in rural, regional and remote areas.

Mudgee hearing

While investigating regional aged care, the Commission had a particular focus on:

  • the perspective and experience of people who access or are involved in aged care in regional and remote areas
  • challenges associated with delivering aged care in regional and remote areas
  • models for and approaches to delivering aged care in regional and remote areas, including Multi-Purpose Services.

One of the key issues to emerge was allegations of elderly people being denied access to care but still charged for it. This form of financial elder abuse should not be tolerated.  Witnesses also spoke of the difficulty in getting help to stay at home in regional areas.

The last of twenty witnesses had praise for the Nyngan Multi-Purpose Service. Mr Harris said the service “has given me a life and it’s given Beth [his wife] a life. The couple of twenty years found out in 2013 that Mrs Harris had early onset dementia and – two years later – was diagnosed with Parkinsonian-plus syndrome. Mr Harris said the community involvement in the MPS was a critical success factor.

Aged Care Royal Commission – Newcastle Community Forum  – Nov 27

Meanwhile people from key regional NSW areas including Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Hunter Valley and the mid North Coast have the chance to have their voices heard when the Commission holds a community forum in Newcastle this month.

The forum will be held at NEX @ Wests City (Newcastle Exhibition and Conference Centre), on King Street, Newcastle West, on Wednesday, November 27 from 9.30am to 12.30pm.

Community forums are another way that members of the public can engage with the Commission. Forums are taking place in a number of locations around the country. The forums are an opportunity for members of the public to hear about the work of the Commission and to offer their ideas on the challenges and strengths of aged care. This is also a chance for anyone to propose ideas for improvement.

Commissioner Lynelle Briggs AO will attend the Newcastle forum. There will be a chance to give written feedback to the Commission and to talk to Commission staff. A limited number of people will be able to give a brief statement. More details, including how to register to speak, are here.

Commission’s Interim Report

The Commission handed down its Interim Report – entitled ‘Neglect’ – on October 31.

It rightly labelled our aged care system as “a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation”. This aligns with the shocking stories of neglect and abuse shared by the many families I see in my practice.  There are many dedicated aged care providers and workers but they work in an unkind and uncaring system that fails older Australians who deserve better.

The report does not make recommendations but says that immediate action should be taken on chemical restraint use, home care packages for those on waiting lists and getting young people with disabilities out of aged care.

As the principal of Catherine Henry Lawyers and as spokesperson on aged care for the Australian Lawyers I publicly commented on the report.

My view – and the view of the ALA – is that increased government funding will help but it should be available in conjunction with new legislation and effective regulation. We need to address staffing issues and the lack of availability of data on key performance indicators as to quality. Action needs to occur now. The government cannot wait for the Commission’s final report, which is 12 months away. Frail-aged Australians cannot wait that long.

You may read the ALA media release here or read my opinion piece for the Newcastle Herald here.

Next hearing

The next hearing will be in Hobart on November 11-14. The Hobart Hearing will inquire into the operations of selected Approved Providers that operate residential aged care facilities in Tasmania and elsewhere in Australia.


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