Urgency of a national aged care plan


UNSW’s Prof. Richard Hugman says the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s latest recommendations are important and necessary.

UNSW’s Professor Richard Hugman says it is a “surprise” that the Aged Care Royal Commission has recommended the government start a plan to tackle the crisis.

“[Having this new national aged care plan] also means that it will look like the federal government is taking responsibility for the system which already lies within its jurisdiction,” Prof. Hugman, a social worker who specialises in the aged care professions, says.

“So, it comes as a surprise that the commission is now recommending a plan and an advisory council, considering government insistence that there already was planning.”

Prof. Hugman says the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s six recommendations released in its latest report on October 1, are urgent, important and necessary.

“These measures would provide a basis to ensure that future covid-19 responses will be more effective,” Prof. Hugman says.

The federal government has until December 1, 2020, to report back to Parliament about the implementation of the recommendations, the RCACQS states.

The six recommendations also include having an infection control person in every aged care facility, and funding for staff so elderly people can receive more visits from family and friends.

But Prof. Hugman says these two recommendations are already being met by some of the nation’s best aged care providers and that they should already be standard practice industry-wide.

“While the highest quality providers already have these practices and support for residents in place, it is shocking that they are clearly in a minority,” Prof. Hugman says.

Though Prof. Hugman has welcomed the federal aged care plan, and greater access to allied health services, such as mental health provisions, via the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

He says the recommendations are necessary to improve the quality of life for many older people who have suffered greatly in aged care homes since the start of the pandemic.

“The measures will also go some way to meeting deficits that have been identified more generally in other areas of the Royal Commission’s work,” Prof. Hugman says.

“It will also address some of those significant problems created by covid-19.”

The Royal Commission found that, even before the crisis of the pandemic set in, by June 30, 2018, about 49 per cent of people in all aged care facilities suffered from depression.

And to date, more than 660 older people in aged care homes across Australia have died as a result of contracting covid-19, most of those deaths have been in Victoria.

The Royal Commission is set to release its final report in February 2021.

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