Political action called upon to support aged care industry

By Ashlea Witoslawski

On the National Day of Action for Aged Care yesterday, Shepparton Villages chief executive Kerri Rivett called on the Federal Government to provide more funding to support the sector’s future.

Launched by peak body Leading Age Services Australia, the national campaign urges politicians to address the funding emergency in aged care facilities across the country, as well as the home care package waiting list and the lack of investment in the workforce.

Ms Rivett said the situation was dire, especially in regional settings, with 44 per cent of aged care providers not making any money.

‘‘That increases to 66 per cent in regional Australia,’’ she said.

Shepparton Villages was not immune to the funding challenges, with the organisation’s profits dwindling in recent times, Ms Rivett said.

‘‘It’s not as bad as some of those smaller regional providers but we are struggling at the moment.’’

Ms Rivett said it was estimated about $30billion was needed across the next two years to rectify the issues faced in residential care.

As the largest local aged care provider, Ms Rivett said Shepparton Villages received, on average, $180 to $185 over a 24-hour period, to look after someone in care.

There were three components to the business — care, hotel services and accommodation — each with separate funding allocations, legally unable to be shared between one another if a component was exhausted.

Ms Rivett said it was care and hotel services which required desperate funding support, with a $3billion Commonwealth funding investment essential across Australia.

‘‘The parties have come out and said they’re committed to aged care but none of them have come out with any money,’’ she said.

‘‘They are all waiting for the royal commission but by then it’ll be too late. We actually need the funding now.’’

Stability was crucial for the industry’s future success, Ms Rivett said.

‘‘If we don’t have stability no-one is going to invest in this business,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s one of the fastest growing areas of health and the fastest growing employment area of health.’’

She also said people were going into facilities a lot more unwell, with a lot more complex and greater needs.

‘‘All the medications are helping us to live longer but we’ve got mobility issues that come along with ageing, sadly enough.’’

Ms Rivett stressed the need for more home care packages, which helped people live independently for as long as possible.

The wait list to access these packages was sitting at 12 months due to a lack of funding, meaning vulnerable people were without in-home support.

‘‘They have released some packages over the last six months, but not enough,’’ she said.

Another crucial issue faced by Shepparton Villages and the entire industry was attracting and retaining staff.

‘‘Shepparton is actually growing really fast and there are a lot of jobs coming into the region and that’s putting more pressure on us,’’ Ms Rivett said.

Working with local TAFE organisations, the facility had benefited from the Victorian Government’s free courses initiative, however funding was only applicable to training, not for staffing afterwards.

Investing in the industry was important for the community’s future prospects, Ms Rivett said.

‘‘In small country towns, the aged care provider becomes the employer, they purchase all their equipment from the country town, they purchase all their food for the country town.

‘‘If the residential care facility shuts, the town shuts.’’

The needs of people in care was also at risk.

‘‘We just don’t get enough money to meet the expectation that consumers actually have and those expectations have gone through the roof,’’ she said.

‘‘We don’t have the staffing levels to meet care immediately.

‘‘We need extra funding and that is an emergency.’’