Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jan-Feb 2017 Contents Did
Ken Wyatt made history as
the first indigenous Member of
the House of Representatives
when he was elected in 2010
as the Federal Member for
Hasluck, an electorate south
east of Perth
Fact file: Ken Wyatt
n He has been Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care since February 2016
(having been Assistant Minister for Health since September 2015)
n Wyatt was a primary school teacher in Western Australia from 1973 to 1986 and
then went on to hold senior positions within the state’s education department
n He has been a director of Aboriginal health for the departments of health in
NSW and WA
n Wyatt was appointed Member of the Order of Australia in 1996 and awarded the
Centenary Medal in 2003
needs and we
and in which
developed by the government’s sector advisor y
panel, the Aged Care Sector Committee.
But Wyatt put a line through deregulation of
beds until there is “a secure model for rural and
“I want to protect country towns and
rural populations, other wise if we deregulate
completely we likely see countr y towns die,” he
told the conference.
Wyatt tells AAA that inadequate provision of
aged care in rural areas forces older people to
move to metropolitan areas in order to receive
care, thereby putting a strain on
relationships and families.
It also has a big impact
on country towns, where
a residential facility is a
key employer and plays
a special role in the
community, he says.
“Having grown up in
the bush I’m very keen to
have a model of funding
and allocation of beds that
ensures continuity of those
aged care places, otherwise
we’ll slowly suck the life out of
countr y and regional Australia,”
Wyatt says ongoing discussions within
the Department of Health and with senior
sector leaders are canvassing how policy
settings and the aged care funding model can
be used to ensure sustainable provision of
services in the bush.
Roadmap: hearing from providers
On the roadmap’s reforms more broadly,
Wyatt says he will invite 100 aged care
providers to a special forum to share their views
on the proposals.
The event, to take place in either Sydney
or Melbourne in Februar y, will be attended
by a cross-section of providers representing
metropolitan and rural and remote Australia, as
well as Aboriginal, CALD and LGBTI seniors
groups and provider peak bodies, he says.
While the government received the roadmap
in April last year it has made ver y few responses
to the wide-ranging recommendations which,
along with the deregulation of aged care places
and prices include removing the distinction
between residential and community care.
Wyatt says that while he had been engaging
with various committees and groups on the
proposals, he wants to hear from providers
working at the frontline.
“All of my meetings are with committees,
often with peak organisations, and that’s not a
criticism, they reflect the members who belong
to them, but I also want to get some providers
at the table and hear some of the thinking they
have,” he says.
The invited providers will be given an
opportunity to talk with government and
Department of Health bureaucrats about the
directions outlined in the roadmap, Wyatt says.
The government wants provider input on
the short, medium and long-term proposals
contained in the roadmap as well as feedback
on reforms currently under way and how they
influence future changes, he says.
Question over July 2018
One future reform that has been confirmed
by government but now appears to have a
question mark over it is the merging of the
Commonwealth Home Support Program and
the Home Care Packages program into a single
community aged care program.
AAA understands there is some disquiet
in the sector around the timeframe for the
programs to merge, currently slated for
July 2018, and that bureaucrats within the
Department of Health have also raised concerns
with the ministers.
Wyatt confirms this.
“Look we had discussions
late yesterday about a range of
issues; I meet with the deputy
secretar y and senior staff
regularly to talk about the
issues, and that has been
raised,” he says.
Another element of the
current reform program,
My Aged Care, remains
the subject of provider and
consumer frustration, as
revealed by the evaluation of the
platform released late last year.
Wyatt acknowledges the ongoing
problems, which include referral and access
issues, and says they’re frequently raised with
him, including by federal MPs who are fielding
complaints from their constituents.
“We are conscious of the problems we’ve
had over a period of time. As issues are
raised with me I pass that feedback onto the
department to respond to, and they have been
good at responding.
“As always we will continue to look at the
systems we have in place, refine them and
improve them,” he says.
Tackling isolation in facilities
Meanwhile, on a topic that’s clearly close to
his heart, Wyatt says he has been reflecting
lately on the degree of loneliness he sees
within aged care.
“I’ve been into aged care facilities and have
asked the question: how many people in here
never have a visitor?
“My message to families and to support
groups or volunteers is to think about going in
and just putting your arm around somebody’s
shoulder and asking them how they are, because
loneliness would be terrible. Just talking with
someone is a way of showing them that you
care,” he says. n
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