Nursing Review Issue 3 May-June 2022 - Page 18

specialty focus
specialty focus

Listening and learning

Fixing Australia ’ s ‘ broken ’ rural aged care system .
Nikita Weickhardt interviewed by Eleanor Campbell

Aged care policy experts are calling on the federal and state government to introduce a stewardship based model to fix the nation ’ s rural , regional and remote aged care sector .

Recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that over half of older Australians living outside of cities will travel hundreds of kilometres to access residential care .
Aged care policy expert and director of Nous Group , Nikita Weickhardt , says the government should harness local knowledge to help close the service gap leaving older generations behind .
“ It ’ s not just about adding more beds , it ’ s about understanding the needs of the communities and the needs of the people living in these communities ,” Weickhardt told Nursing Review .
“ The public are ready for change , the government is ready for change and I think providers are ready for change .”
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Weickhardt joined Nursing Review to discuss reworking regional and rural aged care in 2022 .
NR : What do you think are the greatest challenges facing rural and aged care providers ? NW : I think the challenge for rural and remote providers will continue to be the viability of their services . Even with the additional $ 10 coming through per resident , per bed , the aged care providers in regional , rural and remote communities are still going to grapple with the viability of service . In addition to that , there are challenges in understanding how the other recommendations from the Royal Commission will translate into their service delivery .
I ’ m originally from the Caribbean , and when my husband and I moved to Australia we spent two years living in Roxby Downs , pretty much in the dead centre of Australia , and then another two years living in central Queensland . We ’ ve spent a bit of time living in places that most people in Australia haven ’ t been to , and I think the challenge for rural , regional and remote communities is providing the type of service that the people in those communities deserve , and being able to access the care that they need close to home . For these providers it ’ s challenging just finding staff , which is the case for all providers but more so for those in rural and remote areas . And then also having the clientele to fill the beds so they can offer viable , sustainable services for those communities .
How do you think the current COVID situation is contributing to this problem ? I think we ’ re hearing across all of the aged care community that the workforce is tired . It ’ s been a very big two years for everyone , but more so for the aged care community . In addition to having to safeguard their residents from the impact of COVID , they ’ ve also had to , in many cases , step into the role of being the family and main support for a lot of their residents .
How do you think families and communities living in rural areas are being affected by not having this access to quality aged care services inside their local areas ? According to the AIHW over half of the ageing population in very remote communities has to move more than 100 kilometres to get access to an aged