State reps call on more aged care support

Debate: Nationals WA leader Mia Davies and WA Seniors Minister Mick Murray have had their say on aged care in the Wheatbelt. Photos: Supplied.
Debate: Nationals WA leader Mia Davies and WA Seniors Minister Mick Murray have had their say on aged care in the Wheatbelt. Photos: Supplied.

The state government has said it has introduced initiatives to address state-level aged care concerns and gaps in regional WA, despite calls from the Nationals WA leader that there are still majors flaws in the system.

Nationals WA leader Mia Davies said within the aged care sector in the Wheatbelt there were gaps in the amount of services provided, leading to older residents being forced to move to Perth.

"Once you are assessed and you are entitled to have a service provided, if you live in one of our smaller communities it is very difficult to find someone to deliver those services," she said.

"Whether you are entitled to a cleaner or whether you need someone at a Silverchain level, in some communities you simply can't get that - you're entitled to it but there is no one available to provide that service."

The Avon Valley and Wheatbelt Advocate is continuing to explore the aged care sector in the region.

She said workforce shortages and funding from the state and federal governments were critical in improving the sector.

"There is a workforce shortage that is absolutely impacting the ability to operate our aged care facilities in Kellerberrin and Northam," Ms Davies said.

"It's more than finding the body, it is finding someone who is qualified that can be based in that community - that is definitely a challenge.

"State and federal government need to collaborate to make sure we have a regularity system and appropriate funding and beds delivered into the Wheatbelt to make sure that we've got a continuum of aged care services - that comes through funding and training.

"We need to make sure that we are offering training and creating career paths for people to work in the aged care sector.

"We need to make sure that we continue to put investment into infrastructure."

Despite concerns, WA Seniors and Ageing Minister Mick Murray said the government had funded aged care initiatives in the Wheatbelt.

He said $738,000 in funding was allocated to upgrade the Central Regional TAFE Northam campus in 2017 to install a nursing ward and an aged care bed in a simulated ward environment.

"From January 1 two qualifications relating specifically to aged care will have course fees reduced by 50 per cent and capped at $400 for youth and concessions and $1200 for non-concessions," Mr Murray said.

Mr Murray said the federal government needed to allocate more residential aged care beds to WA.

"WA does not receive a fair share of residential aged care beds with approximately six beds per 1000 people, compared with a national average of over eight beds per 1000 people," he said.

"The federal government must provide more resourcing for beds to address shortages, particularly in the bush where we still see a lack of funding.

"On November 24 the Commonwealth announced extra funding for services in the home, which is welcomed but it is not enough.

"Though the funding will enable 10,000 packages nationally to be funded and help reduce wait times to access packages, it is not enough to clear the backlog in regional WA."

Ms Davies said she supported the efforts of Regional Development Australia (RDA) Wheatbelt in coming up with a Wheatbelt specific solution to aged care.

The not-for-profit has been working with partners to develop models that enable older people to remain in their communities across regional WA.

"I back RDA Wheatbelt in the approach that they are taking," Ms Davies said.

"There are lots of evidence and information on how we could do better in aged care in the Wheatbelt."

If you or someone you know wants to be part of the series, contact Eliza Wynn on 0477 737 471 or eliza.wynn@avonadvocate.com.au.