You know how desperate things are in a sector when someone who gets very little sleep because she works in aged care and is also a full-time carer for her mum makes the time to be part of a local forum with some politicians, giving up the only moment of free time that she gets.
The members for Newcastle and Macarthur held a hearing of the Medicare Taskforce in the electorate that I represent, Macquarie, focusing on aged care. It's fair to say that we had a full house in Katoomba, with people who have gone through the process of helping an elderly family member, whether it's a mum or a dad, a relative or a partner, to tackle the bureaucracy to get an aged-care home package.
The room full of people sat in stunned silence as we took evidence by phone from Anthea Cox-Norman,
an aged- care nurse who lives in Hobartville, who shared with us her experience in trying to get
the appropriate level of home care for her mum. She works nights and cares for her mum during the
day. She needs help. We first started speaking with Anthea in March, when she rang concerned that,
despite the fact that her mum had been discharged from hospital into Anthea's care in early
January, they had been advised of a nine- to 12-month wait for an in- home-care package. Her mum's
needs had been assessed as meeting level 4 needs—that's the highest level of care. Anthea is at
breaking point, as anyone would be when trying to do two full-time roles without adequate support.
I wrote to the minister about this in early July after exhausting all other avenues, and there's
still no response.
What the evidence from the forum tells us is that Anthea is not alone in experiencing long delays
for care for a loved one. One of the key issues that emerged is that so many people give up on the
wait and accept a package that is at a lower level of care and then find themselves facing big
bills in trying to fill the gaps. The cost of that extra care can be a real shock and financially
I have an electorate with many retired and elderly people. In fact, people move to the area in
order to retire and to breathe our clean air after living and working in their busy lives. It's
completely understandable that people want to be able to age in their own home, in their own space,
for as long as they can. The delays in home-care packages have caused grief for many, and I have
heard the same story over and over again: that someone was on the waiting list but their package
didn't come through until they were just about to be admitted to residential care or, in several
cases, the person needing the care had already died.
It is a disgrace that we show so little respect for the older and more vulnerable members of our
community. It seems bizarre to me that it is now August and we are well overdue for an update on
the current waiting list. The Department of Health has previously committed to releasing data two
months after the period that the data covers. So what has happened to the March quarter? And the
July quarter shouldn't be too far away.
Of course, we know that if the figures were good they'd be out by now. In spite of the claims that
there was money in the budget for packages, I wonder if they barely made a dent in the waiting list
of more than 100,000 people. These are people who are eligible for an aged-care in-home package.
They're meeting the requirements to be given that package. They're ready to accept that package,
but they're still waiting.
We know that being cared for in your home has huge benefits, and that is not only the cost. It
costs somewhere between $100,000 and $120,000 of taxpayer money for people to be cared for in a
facility. It is much, much cheaper to allow people to be cared for in their own homes. People can
sleep in their own bed, they can have their own bedroom, surrounded by their own things. They can
have their pet and they can turn the TV up as loud as they like. Care can be totally personalised,
which is much harder to do in an aged-care facility. There's also that sense of independence, of
having some control over many aspects of your daily life. You get to decide when to eat, when to
sleep and when to socialise.
This government deserves condemnation for what it's doing to people like Anthea. I think it should
apologise to Anthea, to her mum and to people like Noeline O'Beirne whose husband, Patrick, didn't
live long enough to see his level 4 package delivered. And she herself is no stranger to waiting.
These people deserve the funding they've been assessed for, the funding that's been committed to them, and they absolutely deserve an apology from this government for what it's doing to them.