FEDERAL MP Warren Entsch has again highlighted the plight of the aged and elderly in Leichhardt, addressing Parliament this week on the shortcomings of our aged care system.
Speaking on the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) package of bills, Mr Entsch questioned why it has taken the government more than a year to bring the legislation into parliament, yet it wants the bills pushed through within the next four sitting weeks.
“Our aged-care system needs urgent change to provide viable and effective aged-care services for older Australians. But this package does not resolve many outstanding viability issues for providers… and adds more regulation in what is an already very highly regulated sector.”
Mr Entsch highlighted the situation facing the Mossman District Nursing Home committee, which has battled for 14 years to get an aged care facility built in Mossman.
“It has been an incredibly long journey-fundraising, obtaining a commitment of land, and year after year applying through the Aged Care Approvals Round for the bed allocations and capital funding they need to proceed.
“I honestly do not know how Marj and the committee have done it. The red tape and regulation that they have had to deal with and overcome is just baffling.”
Mr Entsch said the situation was becoming urgent, with the region seeing a dramatic increase in people with Alzheimer’s, an increasing aging population and more and more 90-96 year olds requiring high care immediately.
“Given that the MDNH committee has partnered with the Salvation Army, that it addresses cultural needs of local Indigenous people, and that members of the close-knit community can remain in the township rather than going to a facility in Cairns, it’s a no-brainer.”
Mr Entsch also mentioned the challenges facing the Star of the Sea Nursing Home on Thursday Island as a “prime example” of the current system’s shortcomings.
Despite having a troubled history in recent years, including staff complaints and sanctions, the facility has gone from strength to strength since BlueCare took over in December 2012.
However, Mr Entsch said he was appalled to see that many of the issues he raised concerns about in September 2011, when he wrote to the Prime Minister about rusting drainpipes, rotten window frames, unsafe staff accommodation and unsecure perimeter fencing, had still not been addressed.
The reason? Star of the Sea was still waiting for $2.1 million that had been promised by the Department of Health and Ageing more than 18 months ago.
“The facility is being run on an absolute shoestring despite management chasing these funds from the department numerous times,” Mr Entsch said. “It is an absolute disgrace.”
Since raising the issue with local media, Mr Entsch recently heard that some funding has actually come through but it was only $1.1 million.
“The reality is that they need an overall investment of around $19 million to bring it up to a standard that would be acceptable anywhere else in the country.
“When we look at the commitments we have for securing a future for our Indigenous Australians, this is a national shame.”
Mr Entsch ended by saying that he was concerned small communities like Mossman and the Torres Strait Islands “tend to get overlooked” despite having very real needs.
“The families are close-knit and without the benefit of public transport, it can be impossible for older family members to visit their loved ones in care. It is important, where we can, to keep them in the community.
“We also need to start looking at a lot more culturally appropriate services for our Indigenous older citizens, particularly in the area of Indigenous traditional healing, where opportunities are being denied at the moment in our facilities.”