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‘Aged care’ should be exactly that, and not places where government determines how you live and die

As Prime Minister, Scott Morrison must take responsibility for aged care.

Most people of my vintage would have had the experience, the responsibility, of seeing that your parent’s last days on earth are as serene as is humanly possible.

For most, it is an experience of the celebration of their life. For others, the finding of a suitable nursing home can be a distressing time.

Death for the religious is the gift of moving from one life to another. For others, it is just the ending of normality; the cycle of life’s ending. It is not about the length of it but the depth of it.

For me, being told that the life we are living is a forerunner or introduction to better one serves only to devalue the one we have, but death is not the mystery it is made out to be. It is simply the reverse of the other mystery we call birth. Whatever the circumstance, dignity and the person’s final wishes are paramount.

The conclusion of our life ends in many, often-complicated ways. Ethnicity, and religion will frequently dictate the manner in which we die.

The way a society and its government views aged care (our final days) dictates the manner in which we see out our last days and with three years as Treasurer and two as Prime Minister, it is here that Prime Minister Scott Morrison must take responsibility for aged care.

A Death Certificate might show proof of death but the legacy you leave behind will demonstrate how you lived.

After 20 reports and an ongoing Royal Commission, no ignorance can be pleaded here.

The absence of any scrutiny on this subject has come about because our democracy hasn’t been functioning as it should.

Federal Parliament was supposed to sit last week. The decision not to was taken a couple of weeks before, on medical advice. Whether the Prime Minister is deliberately dodging the Parliament is up for debate but it has to be said that he doesn’t take kindly to criticism.

It is difficult to imagine that places responsible for the health of the aged could become breeding places for COVID-19 yet 10 per cent of Victoria’s aged care homes have now seen outbreaks.

My wife and I have had the rather unpleasant experience of hopping from one aged care home to another trying to find suitable care. Daniel Andrews isn’t the first to utter the words; “I wouldn’t send my own mother there.”

It wouldn’t surprise you if I said that the treatment of some residents has been disgusting. Hence Andrews’ comment.

At times there are 100 residents for one nurse, which of course is totally inadequate.

I believe that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

Now if the federal government – who runs private health care – knew that the elderly were the age group most vulnerable to COVID-19 then you would think they would have paid greater attention to their living conditions.

So, in part the Morrison government is responsible for Victoria’s second wave. The great crime is knowing and doing nothing. How could they possibly have just ignored it?

All 11 deaths in Victoria last Monday were at privately owned nursing homes that ultimately the federal government has responsibility for. (Shades of pink batts.)

Friends may leave your presence but their impression remains.

The Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck refused to name the aged care facilities in Victoria battling outbreaks of coronavirus on the basis of “reputational’ fears.” Yes, they are afraid it may damage their business.

 

Yes, you heard that correctly. They are afraid it may damage the reputation of their business. Well many of them should be thrown out on their ears and it is also fair to say that the government’s inaction on issues they knew about makes them responsible for the deaths of many elderly folk.

It’s as though these places are just God’s waiting room and there is little point to interior décor or excellent sanitary conditions.

“Reputational issues”! Lord, spare me.

The Australian reported (fire walled) that 65 per cent of the country’s total 221 coronavirus deaths have been in aged-care facilities. (Read here in The Monthly for an analyses.)

It is, however, particularly galling that the problems within the health care industry were not discussed, and seriously so.

Paddy Manning in The Monthly, reports that:

“Even conservative Liberal backbencher Concetta Fierravanti-Wells is angry. David Crowe revealed this morning that Fierravanti-Wells, writing in a submission to the aged-care royal commission, said that the Abbott government (including then social services minister Scott Morrison) “sowed the seeds of the predicament that the aged-care sector is facing today”. Fierravanti-Wells had held the aged-care portfolio in opposition and developed plans to reform the sector based on Productivity Commission recommendations, but her policies were dumped when the Abbott government was elected and she was shifted into multicultural affairs.”

More so given that they had received a scathing interim report from the Royal Commission. This makes Morrison’s inaction positively more dreadful.

His usual response in similar situations is to blame others, but he is on his own on this one.

The fact is that given the Victorian outcome it is shameful that he has done nothing since the release of the report.

The Parliament should have been debating this issue and Albanese (and others) would have the opportunity to question Morrison about the inaction but it appears our democracy has also been disgracefully quarantined.

Morrison seems to get away with enough from the Murdoch-led media in Australia and he goes unquestioned on important matters.

However on Q&A last Monday a few pointed questions were asked:

“Coalition MP Andrew Laming, a former doctor, was asked why the federal government had not done more to prevent the outbreaks in aged care.

Q&A’s host, Hamish Macdonald, asked him why a 2018 report into aged care, written by Prof John Polares, had not received a detailed response from the government.

“There has to be a response,” he said. And it has to be given to the professor.”

Two years have since past. Anyway his answer seemed to go through to the keeper with a minimum of swing, took a nick but, no appeal was made.

“The Labor MP Ged Kearney, a former registered nurse whose father-in-law died of COVID-19, said: ‘The Morrison government has failed aged care’.

Dr Vyom Sharma, a Melbourne GP, agreed and said a broader view was needed to understand why people might have not been following isolation rules.

‘We have to look at the systems approach here,’ he said. “Why aren’t people doing this? Could it be because people are waiting long periods of time for their test results to come back? Could be because we had no paid pandemic leave until very recently.”

Later in the program, Golding told the panel that the situation at St Basil’s had been ‘a catastrophic failure’ when her mother was being evacuated.”

Perhaps now it’s obvious why Morrison might not have been so keen for the Parliament to meet. He loves a soapbox where his words escape pursed lips at the rate of 10 a second, undefined and unchecked. But not in a Parliament where there are penalties for lying.

Albanese has been onto it, saying that Morrison must answer why he has made no effort to clean up these privately owned Aged Care Homes where profit comes before human health.

I for one would love to hear his answers.

My thought for the day

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… You are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.

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10 comments

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  1. Yes Minister

    A lot of wrinklies have a lot of $$$$$$$, and governments of all persuasions together with their cohorts running aged ‘care’ institutions are obsessed with getting their grubby paws on the money. after which they don’t give a moment’s thought for the wrinklies. Once again, the LOVE of money and all that.

  2. Ken

    A few years ago I tied to find suitable Aged Care facilities for my parents and had great difficulty.
    Since then they have both passed away and their time in the various Aged Care places they
    were in did not give them a good or even pleasant end of life (and that was before Covid-19).
    While the LNP are the government I have no hope that the situation will be improved.

  3. Ross

    People who have shares in the private aged care “industry” should have a good hard long look at themselves, they might find a tiny drop of blood on their hands.

  4. wam

    Selamat pagi, lord, apa kabar? What a warming read after the pool.
    Private enterprise may well be “… afraid it may damage the reputation their business” but they are not afraid to save money on food and conditions.
    I can remember shaking my head on hearing the rabbott remove requirement on aged care to protect the profits.
    Sadly, the major policy that affected this area, and would have gone a long way to have avoided the age care crisis, was the evaluation process where facts were collated and evaluated. This meant attention to detail or the risk of dismissal. The replacement ‘review’ sounds good but a quick look is rarely cheaper, open to corruption, omission and exaggeration.

    ps
    I have been to many funerals where the old adage luck is a fortune applies.
    in that I was lucky to meet someone to admire and there is a fortune in the memories.
    pps
    Some agencies give spotters fees to those who introduce carers. Wonder who spotted Ann Marie Smith’s carer? She has just been arrested and charged with manslaughter

  5. Stephengb

    143/ 221 deaths directly connected to private aged care facilties enabled by The LNP and in particular Tony Abbott and Scot Morrison.

    Let that sink in

    Those two directly connected to the deaths of 143 people.

    Then there is the remaining 78, how many of them are down to the Morrison push to “get out from under the doona”?

    Seems to me that our MSM are culpable of hiding the truth.

  6. Kerri

    Morrison has been around the traps long enough to have known aged-care was an ongoing and potentially explosive problem for the Federal government. When does “reputational damage” become more important than “public health warnings”?
    Morrison has a lot to answer for. I certainly hope he is questioned during the ongoing Royal Commission.

  7. Michael Taylor

    Kerri, Morrison doesn’t like questions. 😉

  8. guest

    Questions. Now there is a problem more problematical for some than for others.

    I remember when there was a Royal Commission into Unions in which two people in particular, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, were quizzed for hours and in the end, after nothing incriminating was found, never-the-less it was claimed by some keen inquisitors that there were still questions to be answered but no one seemed to know what.

    So, more recently,”Socialist Left” Dan Andrews has been grilled daily for up to two hours, but still the sharp inquisitors have questions to be answered.

    Plenty of questions, but the inquisitors themselves have no answers.

    Just look at writing in the Murdoch press, for example. “Socialist Left” Andrews is accused of destroying democracy with his lockdown at night, when the virus is no worse at night than it is in the day. Why did he use contracted security people to attend to quarantined people in hotels when he could have used police or ADF?

    Life in Oz like a series of footbal matches, state vs state. Endless lockdowns and closing down of state borders, endless debt and endless welfare!

    We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan! There is a lack of accountability and a lack of scientific explanations! Dreadful injustice! Federation is falling apart! Democracy is lost!

    So what is the strategy from here? they insist. Well, what do they think? Learn to live with it? (The same kind of solution they see with climate change. Just adapt.)

    So much criticism, so many questions, so much misery, alarmism, apocalyptic nonsense. And above all, no answers – just a lot of belly-aching! So “rigorously debated”! So “intellectually curious”! Not.

    No wonder their business model is in decline.

    And on this particular subject, the pandemic, very little mention of their hero Donald Trump. Dodging accountability.

  9. Matters Not

    Lots of RCs in that era but don’t think Rudd or Gillard appeared before the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. Shorten did. He was the political target. At that stage Rudd and Gillard were gone. Yes, Rudd was on the stand re ‘pink bats’ but Commissioner Ian Hanger (also from Queensland) didn’t really have his heart in it. It was a real fizzer.

  10. guest

    Matters Not

    My memory is not so good, and as you say RCs were used as legal weapons back then. I just have this vague idea Gillard was being questioned about money used to renovate a house. Rudd came into my recollection because the judge had been making biassed comments and I seem to have got the judge mixed up with a judge who has been accused of misconduct.

    Sorry, MN, my biassed attitude towards the Right, even if I say nothing, is probably confused and defamatory.

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