Prepare for challenging times, congress told

The future of Australia’s aged care industry will be shaped by the Royal Commission, LASA CEO Sean Rooney has told delegates at the peak organisation’s national conference in Adelaide.

The future of Australia’s aged care industry will be shaped by the Royal Commission, LASA CEO Sean Rooney has told delegates at the peak organisation’s national conference in Adelaide.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney
Sean Rooney

Mr Rooney was delivering his opening address to the congress, which comes in the wake of major announcements concerning the establishment of the Royal Commission into aged care, the appointment of a quality commissioner and the establishment of an industry reference taskforce.

“The future of Australia’s aged care system will be shaped by the outcomes of the Royal Commission,” Mr Rooney told the conference on Monday.

He said the inquiry would play a key role in improving the nation’s aged care system, but warned it wouldn’t be without pain.

“Make no mistake, this will be a forensic and at times painful investigation and there will be examples of unacceptable care brought to light,” he said.

“The Royal Commission process will be necessarily open and transparent to allow older Australians, their families and advocates, aged care workers and aged care providers to be able to come forward and tell their stories.”

Minister for aged care Ken Wyatt and health minister Greg Hunt also addressed the conference via video link, with Mr Wyatt saying the nation had embarked on a new journey to a better and safer era in aged care.

But he acknowledged there would be challenging and “bruising” times ahead.

Mr Hunt said the Royal Commission would lay the architecture for the future of aged care, even though the things it might unearth may be “uncomfortable and challenging”.

Keeping up the momentum

Mr Rooney said four key areas of reform remained that must continue even as the Royal Commission, which is due to report back by April 2020, was underway.

“While the Royal Commission is underway we must press on with addressing key industry issues and not lose sight of making Australia’s aged care system better right now,” he said.

These areas included access to services, quality and regulation, funding and workforce. Mr Rooney said the “unacceptable” 121,000 long waiting list for home care services was yet to be addressed while concerns about inconsistencies in the regulatory system were re-emerging.

He said the sector was still crying out for a long-term sustainable funding strategy, while questions remained about optional staffing mixes and strategies to attract and retain workers in the sector as the industry responded to the recently released workforce strategy report.

Former aged care workforce taskforce head John Pollaers will speak about workforce issues on the final day of the congress on Tuesday.

New initiatives announced

Mr Rooney also announced four new initiatives for LASA members, including the establishment of online clinical Communities of Practice, starting with a platform for nurses and clinicians.

He said the aim of the COP concept was to provide an online platform for communication and networking on key issues.

The clinical COP would give nurses and clinicians an opportunity to discuss issues like risk management, auditing, staff issues and education, he said.

It will be moderated by LASA member advocate Nigel MGothigan and Queensland services manager Chris Edith.

Further COPs are planned, Mr Rooney said.

Mr Rooney also announced the appointment of a national nurser advisor panel in response to “the changing nature of compliance activities and outcomes” across the industry.

In addition, he announced a partnership with Universal Care Training to expand training for members and said LASA would lead a national “Aged Care Thank You” day in 2019.

The LASA congress, described by Mr Rooney as the biggest aged care event in Australia, is being attended by 1200 stakeholders, 100 speakers and 150 exhibitors, including overseas guests from the US, UK, China and New Zealand.

The congress continues on Tuesday.

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