Page 1140 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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Health—Standing Committee

Report 9—government response

Debate resumed from 15 February 2005, on motion by Mr Hargreaves:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.04): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today on the government’s response to the report of the Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Health into the allied health care needs of people in residential aged care.

This was a report of the health committee of the last Assembly chaired by Kerrie Tucker. It was conducted in a very tight time frame leading into last year’s election and was tabled in the Assembly in August 2004. The report recognises the need for further investigation of the matters raised in the report before appropriate responses can be developed. In particular, it recommends that the government investigate the occurrence of retribution in aged care facilities; and, undertake a comprehensive survey of all aged care providers to determine what allied health services are provided, by whom, and at what cost. The government’s responses to these two recommendations in their tabling statement were to note the first and to agree in principle to the second.

Since that time, however, the Chief Minister in this Assembly on 16 February, in answer to a question without notice that I asked, confirmed that the government would be pursuing the investigation of retribution in aged care facilities. He said that the Office for Ageing in the Chief Minister’s Department had been holding discussions with interested persons and developing, at his request, “terms of reference for the nature and scope of an inquiry which we can involve ourselves in accepting”. The Greens are delighted to see that the ACT government is now taking seriously the very important issues impacting on the safety and wellbeing of people in aged care facilities. We await with interest an announcement of the terms of reference for the inquiry and call on government to ensure that the inquiry makes it a priority to talk directly with residents of aged care facilities and the family and friends who visit with them. Any inquiry into retribution could at the same time give consideration to the consumer protection complaints mechanisms and advocacy services available for people in aged care facilities, as recommended by the Assembly committee.

Before I move on to other aspects of the report, I would like to give you a taste of what retribution might look and feel like to a person living in an aged care facility. Firstly, you need to imagine that you are unable to get out of bed to go to the toilet or have a meal without assistance, that you may, if you are lucky, be visited by a family member about once a week, that the only people you see regularly are staff and other residents of the facility and that many of them have at least as many limitations as you, that much of your body aches most of the time and that you have given up your home and most of your possessions and have been separated from or lost your partner. That is a snapshot of the average person in an aged care facility.

In this incredibly vulnerable and stressful position even seemingly small actions by staff can be incredibly threatening. Retribution may take the form of psychological abuse, for example, being advised to look elsewhere for a place when you know that none is

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