Independent candidate for the federal seat of Wentworth Kerryn Phelps has outlined her vision for aged care at an industry conference, saying the major parties have been “alarmingly” silent on issues including home care waiting lists.
“Both parties have said very little about (aged care) during their campaigns and this is alarming because we’ve heard nothing about what’s happening to the nearly 130,000 people on the home care waiting list,” she told a Leading Age Services Australia conference in Sydney Monday.
The former AMA president and high profile candidate for former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat revealed that her son is an aged care worker who experienced first hand the difficulties besetting the industry.
“My son is an aged care worker and .. . he says he finds it really frustrating, because one of the reasons that he works in aged care is that he really does actually have a passion for the work and he’s been doing it ever since he left school ”, she told the LASA NSW conference on Monday.
Need for vision and commitment
Dr Phelps said older Australians were entitled to vision and commitment from the next government, and had the right to know where the parties stood on aged care before they headed to the ballot box.
“We’re not getting that,” she said. “Again, it seems that our older Australians have been forgotten and pushed off into the distance awaiting the results of an aged care Royal Commission.”
She said around 500 older Australians turn 80 – the average age for entry into home care – every week. By 2027 that figure would be 1,500 a week, she said.
Dr Phelps laid out a four point vision for aged care including improved home and community care and legislated maximum home care waiting times.
“Improving home-based and community care support is vital to reducing the increasing need for people to access costly actute care and residential care facilities,” she said.”
“I believe that legislation is required to reduce home care package waiting times to no more than three months from the time of assessment to the time an older Australian receives support in their home.”
Training the next generation of doctors in aged care
Dr Phelps said she also wanted to see medical training places in residential facilities to expose medical students and registrars to aged care and improve the quality of aged care and services in the general community.
She said there was also a need for a greater focus on reablement and aged mental health.
Dr Phelps said like many other people she was relieved when she heard there would be a Royal Commission into the aged care sector.
“My hope is that this wasn’t just a way of kicking the problems down into the long grass until after the next election,” she said. “My real hope is that this can be an absolutely once in a generation opportunity to get it right.”