DOORSTOP: 22/3/22

March 22, 2022


ROSS HART, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BASS: Good morning, my name is Ross Hart. I'm the Labor candidate for Bass. I'm very pleased to welcome Mark Butler, the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing back to Bass and Northern Tasmania to make a very important announcement here at Community Care Tasmania. The Labor team and Mark Butler have been working very hard with respect to this particular project. Mark will be making an announcement which is very important in respect to training, respite care, and aged care generally here in Tasmania, a wonderful project put forward by Community Care Tasmania. Welcome once again Mark to Bass and Northern Tasmania.
MARK BUTLER MP, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Thanks very much Ross, and thank you to the team at CCT for having us here today. It's a little bit more than 12 months since the Aged Care Royal Commission drew really sharp attention to a range of very serious challenges in our aged care sector, and among those challenges are two that we're intending to deal with in today's announcement.

The first is access to good quality respite care for the hundreds of thousands of Australians who are working every single day as informal carers, caring for their loved ones, their wives, their husbands, their children, who are dealing with their own difficulties because of ageing or because of disability or other challenges. There's very clearly a shortage across the country for high quality respite beds and that shortage is even starker in regional communities outside of the big cities on the mainland, and starker in communities like Tasmania and my own state of South Australia that are ageing a little bit more quickly than the rest of the country.

The second thing that the Royal Commission drew attention to is the drastic shortage of well-trained workers, particularly in the aged care sector. As Australia ages, we will need hundreds of thousands of additional high quality, well trained workers in the aged care sector and we currently don't have a plan to deliver them, and those shortages have become even more drastic through the course of this two-year-long pandemic.

Talking to the people here at CCT today and providers across the country, care is now being rationed. Aged care workers are having to work double, triple shifts. Shifts are going without being filled because there simply aren't enough workers. Workers are either isolating because of the pandemic, the borders are shut, the international borders, which means there's not a supply of international workers which has been a mainstay for many areas in aged care. So this drastic workforce shortage that we've been dealing with now for years, highlighted by the Royal Commission, is only sharper now than it ever has been.

Community Care Tasmania has a plan to deal with both of those and that is a purpose-built training and respite centre here to support Northern Tasmania in both of those areas. It's a really exciting plan, it will deliver six new respite beds and rooms with ensuite bathrooms for Northern Tasmania.

We know that carers often aren't very good at caring for themselves. They're wonderful at caring for their loved ones, but they do need high quality respite to take some time for rest, to take some time to look after their own health. There aren't enough beds here in Northern Tasmania and this project will deliver well-needed, much needed beds to the community here.

The second thing they'll do is train 90 new high quality workers in the aged care and disability care sector. People who will have the ability to train on the job, while they're training being able to work on those respite facilities in this project.

This is an extraordinarily exciting project. I've noted after being briefed about five or six months ago in detail by CCT that it's been endorsed by all of the carers groups in this country, including Carers Tasmania, which is effectively the carer gateway for respite services on the island. It's also been endorsed by a range of providers who are desperate for a pipeline of high quality, well trained workers because CCT will not only be training workers for their own operation which delivers support for 2,000 Tasmanians every year, they'll be delivering training for workers that will be able to be accessed by a range of other providers.

It's also been endorsed by the Northern Tasmania Development Corporation and by RDA Tasmania, because they know the economic activity, with 100 construction jobs that will come from this project. All of that is why Labor is pleased to announce that we will, if elected at the election in May, commit $2.8 million to round out this project and ensure that it is delivered for the people of Tasmania.

Can I also just say more broadly though, that the Labor Party always has been committed to delivering services in aged care, disability care and Medicare in regional communities that are at least as good as those that the people in the big cities on the mainland are able to rely on.

That's why we set up a GP Senate inquiry, to deal with the drastic shortage of GPs in regional communities, and I know that Ross and other members of the Labor team in Tasmania have been talking to me for months and months now about the shortages of GP services being experienced here - that's why we set up that Senate inquiry.

Over the last couple of weeks we've seen an extraordinary campaign launched by a Liberal senator, Senator Hollie Hughes, on regional General Practice and regional doctors. Two weeks ago she said that doctors were “whingeing” when they fronted the Senate inquiry to complain about supports and draw attention to the lack of proper supports for regional community General Practice, and last week, extraordinarily, she suggested that private practice, General Practice, should be abolished in regional communities, and people should be expected instead simply to go to their local hospital. Just an extraordinary attack on the importance, the central importance, of regional General Practice in communities like Tasmania.

The Labor team here in Tasmania has called that out. The Labor team in Tasmania has said that that was an outrageous attack on hard working doctors and regional communities, but I've heard nothing from Scott Morrison, nothing from Greg Hunt to distance and contradict and condemn these outrageous attacks by Senator Hughes, and it's about time we heard that from the Liberal Party Government. Only Labor can be trusted to strengthen Medicare and to deliver better aged care and disability care, not just to the big cities, but to communities across Australia. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The people in respite nowadays, is that care at home or are they clogging up the hospitals?
BUTLER: Good quality respite care should allow the person who is being cared for to spend some time at a facility like the one that Community Care Tasmania is intending to build, supported by high trained, high quality workers so that the carer is able to take some time for themselves. Sometimes they might be able to take some time away, visit some family interstate, or in another part of Tasmania. Just rest and recuperate to look after their own health.

And the Royal Commission confirmed there simply isn't enough respite across the country, but particularly in regional communities like Northern Tasmania. That's why this project is so important, adding substantial capacity to respite here in Northern Tasmania because we know when there isn't enough respite people end up at the hospital. Like every other failing in our health system and our aged care and disability system, the lightning rod ends up at the emergency department at the Launceston General Hospital, so this will also relieve pressure from that building.
JOURNALIST: We've heard so many stories about how tight those shortages are at the LGH -what's your experience? How would you describe it?
BUTLER: I've talked to nurses in this area, a range of other organisations who deliver health care here in Northern Tasmania, and it's clear that the lack of good access to doctors and good access to aged care is ending up in the emergency department at the LGH, and that's not where people should be. The emergency department should be there for people who are dealing with once in a lifetime emergencies, who aren't there just because they can't get good access, timely access, to GPs or to aged care when and where they need it.

That's why Labor will be so focused in the time between now and the election, on ensuring that we start to turn around this decline in Medicare services and aged care services that we've seen after nine years of cuts and neglect from the Morrison Government.
JOURNALIST: You said 90 people train each year, is that right?
BUTLER: That's right. Community Care Tasmania might go into more detail about that but as I understand it there will be about 55 additional workers in the aged care and disability sector, so aged care, disability care workers. There will be there will be 10 allied health workers and there will be 25 nurses who will be trained in partnership with organisations that are doing that now.
JOURNALIST: And do you believe there's the demand, that 90 people will train in those positions every single year?
BUTLER: You might want to talk to CCT about that, but I have to say myself that talking to organisations here in Tasmania there is that demand today and that demand is only going to increase. What we know is that our country’s population is ageing. Demand for aged care is going to increase inexorably overcoming years, and there will be a big step up in demand as we see the baby boomer generation start to reach the age where home care packages and then a few years later residential care will be needed for that generation. That will see a very big step up in demand for aged care services, so there's no question in my mind. We need those workers, and we need them to get the high quality training that I'm confident they'll get through this project.