FOLLOWING multiple scandals involving aged care facilities in recent years, NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean is looking to improve the sector.
And, he – along with Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen – visited the Calvary Muswellbrook Retirement Community on Tuesday as part of his campaign.
The state government is keen to alleviate mistreatment, corruption and financial extortion towards the elderly and their families in the wake of numerous examples of such actions, and the federal government’s announcement of a Royal Commission.
They’re introducing new reforms surrounding topics such as contract transparency, property sales and overcrowding.
The last of those issues is sure to become a hot button topic in the years to come, with Mr Kean warning aged care facilities will need to prepare for a dramatic increase.
“Right now in NSW we have 55,000 residents in retirement villages across the state, that number will explode by 2025 to more than 325,000,” he said.
It’s a damning statistic and would be a huge problem in Muswellbrook, which only has two facilities equipped to care for the elderly.
Mr Kean said the aged care industry would require an extraordinary shake up to combat the problems that currently exist, before the gargantuan increase materialises.
“We’ve all seen some horror stories about the treatment of our retirees and older Australians at the hands of big retirement village operators, so what we’ve done is an individual enquiry to make their lives better and fairer,” he explained.
He emphasised the fact the government was keen to move on the topic at pace and with bipartisan support, with six of the 17 pieces of reform having already been legislated in the last sitting week.
Mr Kean acknowledged the importance of getting these changes made as quickly as possible, and assuring they could be seen and not just heard.
“We need to get this right, we need to make sure the public has confidence that when they move into a retirement village they’re going to get a fair go,” he said.
However, he was in the region to discuss more than one topic, as he also travelled to Merriwa to discuss quad bike safety.
This is an issue Mr Kean has had a lot of involvement in, and is continuing to work on following the deaths of 118 people since 2011, 33 of which have occurred in NSW.
The government has poured $1.6 million into rebates for safety equipment and upgrades for the vehicles on farms in an effort to prevent recklessness, which the minister said was a serious issue.
“We want to make sure that kids aren’t riding quad bikes or are at least riding age appropriate ones, you may have an argument with a kid but it’s better than burying a kid,” he said.
“We don’t want to see another loss of life through quad bike injuries.
“That’s why we’re touring farms and getting the message out there that quad bikes are not toys.”
While the topics seem a world apart, the basic principle is the same in both cases, and that’s the improvement and continuation of life for all New South Welshmen.