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Addressing Aged Care Workforce Issues in Rural and Remote Australia
A report addressing Aged Care Workforce Issues in Rural and Remote Australia was launched on Radio National Life Matters yesterday on 10 July 2019.
The Australian Association of Gerontology and National Rural Health Alliance today launched a new report that calls for appropriate funding and delivery models that enable older people living in rural and remote communities to access services that meet their health and wellbeing needs. The average person who lives in a rural or remote area is likely to accumulate disability and health issues at a faster rate than a person in a metropolitan area. A lifetime of health disadvantage culminates in greater rates of premature entry into residential aged care or elevated rates of hospitalisation. A quarter of our population experiences factors that are associated with worse health outcomes and greater need for aged care support’ said Dr O’Kane, NHRA's CEO
AAG has previously recognised the current inequity in access to aged care for older people in rural and remote Australia. ‘Addressing this inequity should be a high priority for government and the sector’ said James Beckford Saunders, AAG’s CEO.
The aged care workforce is critical to ensuring equitable outcomes for all people as they age. Rural and remote communities are not different in needing a workforce that has adequate skills to meet the needs of aged people. There is increasing evidence however that to make services work we also need to develop a ‘rural workforce centre’ model, through which aged care, health, and community service organisations can partner and pool funds, staff and effort to develop a local workforce which is shared across organisations and which delivers integrated services to outlying communities and households.’
‘The report we released today provides a summary of the outcomes of the AAG regional, rural and remote workshop held on 20 November 2018, in Melbourne, on the impact of workforce issues on aged care provision to people living in rural and remote Australia. Participants agreed that
aged care workforce shortages are already severe
they affect service delivery across all parts of rural and remote Australia, and
they exist in all sectors including residential and home care services, and in all workforce categories. Better access to allied health professionals would support older people to live well at home for as long as possible, with significant benefits for quality of life.
For rural aged care services, distance of care recipients from larger rural and regional centres is an important variable, particularly in the delivery of home care services. Home care packages are “eaten up” by travel costs. This problem is compounded by the fact that different service providers across aged care, health, and community services often send out sole workers to deliver services, rather than joining up their services and sending combined outreach teams.
A distinct set of workforce challenges apply to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. There are specific workforce issues in terms of language and cultural knowledge, and fly in/fly out or drive in/drive out service provision can be inappropriate for communities if there is no continuity of workers.
Mr Graham Aitken co-chair of AAG’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing Advisory Group and Chief Executive Officer of Aboriginal Community Services SA commented on the evidence to the Royal Commission that viability of remote and very remote services is a challenge. “At Aboriginal Community Services we work with the local community, TAFE, Job Network providers. Over the 3 years we have been operating on the APY Lands our local Aboriginal work force has increased to approximately 30. ACS is the second largest employer of Aboriginal people on the APY Lands. There are approaches to building local workforce that have been demonstrated to work – what we need now are policy settings that give recognise the benefits of these models as well as the importance of funding certainty.”
Accelerated ageing of the rural and remote population combined with gaps in infrastructure, limited local education and training opportunities, lack of mentoring, and a perceived lack of opportunities for career development exacerbate the challenges in addressing rural and remote aged care workforce shortages.
More than a quarter of Australia’s population live in rural and remote areas. NRHA and AAG believe that these people and these communities have been waiting too long for equity in health outcomes, whether they are young or old.
For more information contact: Kate Gainer firstname.lastname@example.org