Constituency Statement - Aged Care
Mr PITT (Hinkler): I rise to speak about aged care in my electorate of Hinkler. The Hinkler electorate has one of the highest percentages of elderly people of any electorate in Australia. In fact, I often compete with my good friend and colleague Dr David Gillespie, the member for Lyne in New South Wales, as to just how many each of us have in our location. These are older Australians, as I'm sure you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, who have worked hard and who have contributed so greatly to our society, to their communities and to their own families that they do deserve high-quality aged care when that time of need comes. So it is important that we continue to deliver the facilities that they need in their time of need and that those facilities are staffed adequately and are appropriate.
In my local electorate of Hinkler, we have any number of new facilities. Over the last five years, I've fought hard to make sure we have more beds locally. There were hundreds of beds allocated when I first came into the parliament in 2013, but they simply were not built. So we have new facilities now at Palm Lakes at Bargara. There is a multimillion dollar facility at Ozcare in Hervey Bay—a new facility, The Waterford, which I've got to say is like stepping onto a cruise ship. I've never seen a facility quite like it, complete with theatres and men's sheds and workshops. It was quite incredible. There are existing ones like Torbay, which is a community-run facility. I have been contacted by constituents with great uplifting stories of the experiences of their parents in aged care, but I've also been contacted by those with troubling experiences, and that is unacceptable. Where that has happened, we have taken action.
Today in Bundaberg the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union and the Labor Party candidate are calling for ratios of nurses to patients. They want 4.3 hours of care per patient per nurse. We need to get the balance right, because we do not want to see the closure of these facilities, particularly in regional areas, when something so onerous is placed upon them. Aged care is not an industry. It's not a numbers game. It is not about how many hours you get per patient; it is about quality care where it's needed. Today I'm calling for more boots on the ground, particularly in my electorate. The complaints I've received are that there aren't enough staff in some aged-care facilities to help with bathing, exercise and feeding patients.
These are not jobs for registered nurses. They can be carried out by well-trained aged-care workers. I want to see more of them on the ground. Registered nurses are also important, but I don't believe their professional skills are needed to feed and bathe residents, and I'm sure all people would agree with me, particularly in this place. I want RNs to be there to assist with medication and the higher-need medical skills. Surely we can find a way to ensure there is an RN available per shift, whether in person, in a regional or remote area or on call. That is what's necessary, not mandatory ratios that could close our aged-care facilities, particularly in our smaller towns.