THE final report from a royal commission into aged care in Australia has made for some difficult reading, and our nation's response to the crisis could be even more painful.
The report, handed down on Monday, listed a litany of abuses against residents in aged care homes, some of the most vulnerable in our society, and painted a picture of systemic and long-standing problems in the aged care sector.
The royal commission found elderly Australians have been drugged or physically restrained in their beds so they are easier for poorly-trained staff to handle. There is not enough money in the system to properly feed the residents, with up to 50 per cent of aged care residents found to be malnourished. One-in-three aged care residents had experienced substandard care and up to one-in-five had experienced physical or sexual assault.
They were sobering, stunning findings but perhaps most shocking of all was the fact that few were surprised. As the royal commission held its hearings across Australia we heard appalling story after appalling story of the conditions within many aged care homes and even viewed footage of some residents being assaulted in their beds.
The Australian people and the Australian government have already had plenty of time to consider options for fixing this broken system - and how we're going to fund those solutions.
Following the release of the report on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison immediately announced an injection of $452 million into the sector to begin the process of healing.
Compared to the billions that have been stripped from the sector in recent years, though, that sum is simply a down payment.
If Australia is serious about showing elderly residents the care and respect they deserve then we must all be ready to contribute to rebuilding the aged care system.
A Medicare-style levy of around one per cent for every taxpayer has been suggested and that looks a sensible start.
But to make that happen the government must be able to rely on both the goodwill of the Australia people and the bipartisan support of the opposition so we don't get dragged into a fruitless debate over a new tax on the people.
The decline of the aged care sector has continued over many years and under the watch of many governments. So now is not the time for politics, it just needs to be fixed.
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