IT’S only natural that we want our loved ones to enjoy a long retirement in a safe and comfortable environment.
That’s why – quite understandably – families, residents, operators and staff in Orange and across the country should welcome the prospect of what will be revealed by the Royal Commission into the aged care sector.
Newly-minted Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged some areas of concern when launching the Commonwealth investigation.
“‘I think we should brace ourselves for some pretty bruising information about the way our loved ones, some of them, have experienced some real mistreatment,” Mr Morrison said.
“I think that will be tough for some of us to deal with, but you can’t walk past it.”
It will report back to the government by April 2020 and has been empowered with “deliberately broad” terms of reference allowing investigation of failures in the sector, its future and any other matters deemed relevant.
Here are a couple of questions and issues that need addressing in the proceedings ...
Are staff numbers in nursing homes sufficient since there is no minimum legal ratio of staff to residents, no minimum training requirement and no statutory requirement to have a nurse on duty at all times?
Should there be minimum requirements, since nurses now make up only 24 per cent of staff and “personal care assistants” are now almost three-quarters of all staff?
It’s also worth noting that the Commission’s brief needs to extend beyond what was announced by Mr Morrison.
For starters, he neglected to mention retirement villages.
Such communities form a multibillion-dollar sector also plagued by many instances of poor treatment of the elderly and financial scandal.
It might look rushed, even expedient, but the Royal Commission is nonetheless a valuable exercise, particularly given an ageing population.
One of the most profound changes for humanity in the past century has been the almost doubling of life expectancy.
The economic and social implications are yet to be fully felt, but the aged care sector is obviously going to need to accommodate surging demand.
One current legal requirement is the unenforceable rule that staff numbers are “adequate” in these vital institutions.
Surely we can aim for better than that.