Jim Chalmers says we must do better for older Australians

AGED CARE: Labor Member for Rankin and federal Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers talks to some elderly people last week.
AGED CARE: Labor Member for Rankin and federal Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers talks to some elderly people last week.

Like you, I've been worried sick about our vulnerable friends and neighbours who've been battling Queensland's largest COVID outbreak and the essential workers caring for them.

I think of the at least fifteen residents who have died and one hundred more who have tested positive to COVID-19 at Jeta Gardens in Bethania.

The residents and staff are doing their very best in truly awful and challenging circumstances, but regrettably, they just aren't getting the support they need and deserve - including from the federal government in Canberra.

Despite being a high-risk setting, the first vaccine booster clinic only opened at Jeta Gardens on January 31 - weeks after this outbreak began.

Instead of helping stop the virus from spreading in the first place, rapid tests were only made available after the deadly outbreak was spreading.

That's because warnings made months ago were ignored and the Morrison Government didn't order enough of them.

Our community is not alone. Right around Australia, families are frightened for their loved ones.

This year alone, almost 12,000 aged care residents and workers have been infected with COVID in more than 1,100 facilities, and more than 600 aged care residents have lost their lives.

More than 40,000 aged care residents and half of the staff caring for them still haven't had their booster.

The situation has become so dire the Prime Minister has even sent in the defence force to cover the 140,000 shifts going unfulfilled every week.

Our aged care workers are exhausted, overstretched, and under-resourced, and they lack the resources they need to properly care for frail older Australians.

We can and must do so much better.

While the last two years have been especially frightening for our elderly, this awful virus has compounded many of the problems that existed long before the pandemic.

Over the past two years, 26,000 older Australians died waiting for their approved home care packages and the 2020 Aged Care Royal Commission found almost 40 per cent of people living in aged care facilities experience elder abuse.

That's why Labor will act on the recommendations of that Royal Commission and support better wages for aged care workers in our community, which will help deliver better care for our older Australians.

It's the very least we can do for our elderly, given all they've done for us, our nation, and our community.

Jim Chalmers is the federal Shadow Treasurer and Labor Member for Rankin