HOBART, AAP – More than two years after it was first told shocking tales of neglect and failure, the aged care royal commission’s final report is expected to be publicly released next week.
Commissioners will on Friday deliver their long-awaited findings to the governor-general but it won’t be made public until the federal government tables it in parliament.
“We’ll review it carefully over the weekend. We will release the report and provide an interim response by the middle of next week,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Thursday.
“We are anticipating it could be well over a thousand pages and there could be more than a hundred recommendations.”
An interim report, released in October 2019, found the sector was failing to meet the needs of elderly people, many vulnerable, was woefully inadequate and needed a complete overhaul.
Labor raised several disturbing allegations of abuse in homes during Question Time on Thursday, grilling the aged care minister on what he had done to improve the sector.
Aged care, which is predominantly funded by the Commonwealth, has come under increased scrutiny during the pandemic.
Across the country 685 aged residents died from COVID-19, including 655 in Victoria.
The federal government has poured extra money into the sector in recent years, and announced in December a $1 billion boost aimed largely at creating 10,000 more home care packages.
The United Workers Union, which represents thousands of aged care workers, is calling for understaffing to be further addressed.
A recent survey of 3000 staff found four-in-five workers believe older Australian aren’t getting the quality of aged care they deserve.
“Workers want aged care residents to be guaranteed a certain amount of care time so workers can meet the quality care needs of older Australians,” United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith said.
“Aged care workers know it’s time to change aged care. Older Australians, their families and aged care workers deserve dignity and respect.”
The commission’s interim report found pay and conditions for staff were poor, workloads heavy and there were severe difficulties in recruitment and retention.
It also found there was an overuse of drugs to ‘restrain’ aged care residents and younger people with disabilities were stuck in aged care.
Lawyers assisting the commission have made 124 reform recommendations, including for mandated staffing ratios, increased regulator powers and new laws to protect the rights of elderly people.
Peter Rozen QC said there has been an absence of leadership by successive governments but this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make change.
Some 240,000 Australians currently live in residential aged care, including more than 6000 younger people with a disability.
The commission received more than 10,000 submissions and heard from 641 witnesses.