News National Health Minister Greg Hunt vows to act on home care packages by Christmas
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Health Minister Greg Hunt vows to act on home care packages by Christmas

Tougher action is also expected on physical and chemical restraints in aged care. Photo: AAP
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Health Minister Greg Hunt has pledged swift action on beginning the task of reducing the 120,000 retirees waiting for a home care package by Christmas.

He also said he would address the routine use of chemical restraints for drugs, and control of the behaviour of retirees in nursing homes.

Around half of all people in residential aged care and up to 80 per cent of those with dementia are being drugged, experts say, despite the fact it can increase the risk of falls and even death.

In response to a damning royal commission report into the treatment of older Australians in the aged care system, Mr Hunt said action was needed but was not prepared to ban chemical restraints or guarantee the waiting lists for care at home can be eliminated.

“We’ve taken immediate action,” Mr Hunt said.

“Indeed, straight after the Royal Commission briefing and the [interim] report being released, I went into the Council of Australian Government’s health ministers meeting.”

The Morrison government is expected to announce thousands of new at-home care packages in the mid-year-fiscal outlook in December.

According to the royal commission report, 12,000 people have died while on the waiting list for an aged care package at home.

“We are responding to what is the most profound and serious review of aged care in Australia, in the commission’s words, in four decades,” Mr Hunt said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt. Photo: AAP

“We called this because we recognised that there were deep and serious challenges.

“The commission went further than we expected in the sense that it identified a nationwide challenge over multiple decades.

“It identified both a cultural and a governmental challenge, and so, we are responding, and there will be additional home care packages.

“There has already been, and I do think that it is very important to say this – a doubling of home care packages, including a 25 per cent increase in the last year. So we’ve gone from 60,000 to 125,000.”

The commissioner found the use of chemical restraints leave seniors drowsy, unresponsive when sedated, and unable to interact with staff or visitors.

“We will be taking stronger action on those things,” Mr Hunt said.

“We will be taking stronger action, firstly within hours of the report, we had the change in the status of medicines.

“Secondly, we are now working to make sure that we have the right response.

“But thirdly, we have already taken very significant action in terms of much tougher standards on chemical restraint and on physical restraints.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the situation was a direct consequence of Liberal Party cuts.

“It highlighted atrocious behaviour towards older Australians who deserve respect and simply aren’t getting the care that they need,” Mr Albanese said.

“We know that some 16,000 people died literally waiting to get the aged care that they were entitled to.

“And we know that the waiting list for aged care packages has reached some 120,000.

“The truth is that this government has cut aged care funding.

“They slashed it while Scott Morrison was the treasurer of Australia. And the consequences are there for all to see.”

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