The second week of public hearings scheduled from Monday 18 February to Friday 22 February examined the key features of the aged care quality, safety and complaints system as it operated prior to 1 January 2019. Here, we summarise the activities of each day.
The hearing continued to examine how the system was monitored, operated and regulated as well as how the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is likely to improve upon these processes. The hearing also considered the various interpretations of ‘quality’ and ‘safety’ as understood from a broad range of national perspectives.
Day 4 – Monday 18th February
On day four of the Royal Commission’s first public hearing, evidence was given by the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health, Glenys Beauchamp, who outlined the current allocation of the Commonwealth Government’s budget for aged care services. She also noted the issue of waiting times for access to home care packages as well the sustainability of the aged care system going forward. The Commissioner of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, Janet Anderson, highlighted the planned improvements to the complaints process that the newly formed Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission intends to implement. Dr Harry Nespolon, the President of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, gave evidence about the reasons why GPs are reluctant to visit residential care facilities and offered insight into palliative care and staff rations.
Day 5 – Tuesday 19th February
Day five of public hearings heard evidence from Maree McCabe, CEO of Dementia Australia, who spoke of the need for better education regarding the unique needs of people living with dementia. Patricia Sparrow, CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia, highlighted the lack of funding for home and residential care while Sean Rooney, CEO of Leading Age Services Australia Ltd, explained his policy proposals for reforming the aged care system. Nicolas Mersiades, Director of Aged Care Catholic Health Australia, noted the importance of a ‘consumer-chooses’ model.
Day 6 – Wednesday 20th February
The sixth day of public hearings heard evidence from Claerwen Little, National Director of UnitingCare Australia, who took a consumer-focused approach in outlining her proposals for reform. Melissa Coad from United Voice advocated for the rights of personal care workers so that they may provide better quality care for older Australians. Matthew Ritcher, CEO of The Aged Care Guild, was optimistic about the future of the aged care system and Anthony Bartone, President of the Australian Medical Association Ltd, identified problems frequently confronting general practitioners in residential aged care facilities.
Day 7 – Thursday 21st February
The seventh day of the Royal Commission’s public hearing heard from Gerard Hayes, National President of the Health Services Union, who called for a greater focus on the dignity that Australians nearing the end of their lives deserve. Kay Warrener gave evidence on her experience as the spouse of an aged care consumer and spoke of her struggles with waiting to access a home care package. Margot Harker, a recipient of aged care services, shared her day-to-day experiences within the aged care system as a recipient of a home care package. Barrie Anderson shared his experiences of caring for his wife who is in the final stages of dementia, shedding light on home care packages, residential care and the importance of respite for both care recipients and care givers.
Day 8 – Friday 22nd February
Day 8 was the final day of the first round of public hearings for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Senior Counsel Assisting Dr Timothy McEvoy QC summarised the evidence received over the past fortnight and the impact of converging challenges such as population growth; an increase of Australians who suffer from dementia; the desire for Australians to remain in their own homes; the lack of workforce attraction and retention; impediments in gaining access to health care; and significant economic stability concerns. In concluding, Dr McEvoy QC noted that "the Royal Commission rejects the narrative of older people being a burden and calls for respect."