AT the same time as the shortage of aged care beds is making headlines in Cairns, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has again highlighted the region’s aged care crisis in Canberra.
On Thursday, Mr Entsch led a round-table with officials from the Department of Social Services and senior advisers to Senator Mitch Fifield, the Assistant Minister for Social Services.
He handed over a 1400-strong petition organised by local resident Joy Watson, which calls on the government to give Glenmead Village Aged Care Facility greater assistance to restore its numbers of residents.
“Bluecare is in a very difficult position they have been handed over a facility which has incredibly high running costs due to its layout and this is impacting on their ability to take on more residents,” Mr Entsch commented.
“Nevertheless, the fact that this petition has gathered so much support is a clear indication that our community is incredibly concerned about aged care, and people want to see the issues resolved.”
With Cairns Base Hospital attributing this week’s incidents of ‘ramping’ to a shortage of room at the hospital – with elderly people reportedly occupying up to 70 beds – Mr Entsch said he wanted a full audit of vacant places at aged care facilities around the region.
“I’m getting conflicting information from different sources as to how many beds are actually available, but at the end of the day, there is no good reason for an aged care facility to have empty beds while the hospital is overflowing,” he stated.
“It’s also staggering to hear that 15 per cent of current hospital bed stock in the whole region is occupied by people who should be either at home or in an aged care facility, and that in Innisfail it’s as high as 30 per cent.”
Mr Entsch said he was frequently contacted by people from around Australia who have elderly family members in Cairns Base Hospital, who know they shouldn’t be there.
“But when they are told that in order for their relative to get a bed they will have to transfer to Babinda or Atherton, it’s just not reasonable particularly if they have an aged partner who’ll find it very difficult to visit regularly.
“The other issue is that some older people in hospital want to go home, rather than to a nursing home. Unfortunately, they may not have the level of care and support available to them there that they need, so the hospital is reluctant to discharge them due to duty of care.
“It’s a very complex situation.”
Mr Entsch confirmed with the Department that around 330 new beds are due to come online in the next 12 months, including 120 in Cairns by July 2015 and 90 at White Rock by January 2015. The others are at the regional centres of Cardwell, Atherton and Gordonvale.
During the meeting, Mr Entsch also raised the issue of the proposed Mossman District Nursing Home, which is in the process of submitting a third application for ACAR funding.
He emphasised that the unique and growing needs of the aged in the Douglas Shire would be better catered for with a nursing home, as opposed to being cared for at the Mossman Multi-Purpose Health Centre.
The Department also provided an update on the review of aged care provision at the Star of the Sea Nursing Home on Thursday Island, which is due to report by the end of September.
“I’ve kept a close eye on the star of the Sea since highlighting the terrible state of some of the facilities there in 2011,” Mr Entsch said.
“Bluecare has done a fabulous job of turning the place around with their incredibly dedicated staff but there are still significant infrastructure issues.
“I was pleased to hear that the mayors of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area are now taking a keen interest in the future of this facility, and that the Department is looking to not only remedy short-term issues but implement a 20-year Master Plan for the facility.”