Monday, 9 March 2015
Over 18,000 people in New South Wales received federally funded high or low care community age care packages enabling them to continue living at home in 2011-12, their median age was 84.2 years.
Most were women living in their own homes and many lived alone.
The most common reasons for people ceasing to use their age care packages was death or admission to residential age care.
The majority of agencies providing this care are not-for-profit organisations. [Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare, Aged care packages in the community 2010–11: A statistical overview]
Before accessing this range of packages, a number of these older people would have received short-term or crisis assistance through federal government funded Home and Community Care programs administered by the state via its own Home Care Service of NSW.
This includes services such as personal care, respite care, veterans’ home care, light housework, shopping and in remote areas meals and transport [www.adhc.nsw.gov.au, 2015]. Again, many of these services are run at local levels by not-for-profit organisations.
These are the vulnerable people (along with individuals under 65 years with a disability) within the est. 50,000 Home Care Service client base that the NSW Baird Government appears to be targeting in its announcement that it intends to fully privatise this service in or before July 2016 by sale to one successful bidder.
Seventy-eight per cent of Home Care Service clients are 65 years of age or older and from culturally diverse backgrounds, most receive less than ten hours assistance per week but 2 per cent receive sixty hours or more per week [NSW Family & Community Services, 2014].
Two foreign multinational corporations have expressed an interest in this privatisation.
The first is BUPA which is predominately a private medical insurer with some hospital and age care facilities and the second is SERCO which operates public and private transport and traffic control, aviation, military weapons, detention centres, prisons, non-clinical hospital management & support services and schools on behalf of its current customers.
As the result of two separate investigations SERCO had to repay over £70 million to the U.K. Government in 2013 due to overcharging for justice/prison services and is alleged to have millions more in overcharging for national health services on the books in 2014.
It has also been the subject of a number of human rights abuse allegations and was once described as having a culture of “institutional meanness” by the U.K. Chief Inspector of Prisons [Centre for Policy Development, March 2012].
BUPA has been implicated in “inadequate treatment”/”sub-optimal nursing care” during respite care at one of its facilities on the NSW North Coast [State Coroner’s Court, Inquest 140588, 26-28 March 2014].
In 2011 its Bexley Aged Care Facility was the scene of “unsatisfactory professional conduct…professional misconduct” including a staff member on more than one occasion making an elderly man beg for a cigarette on his hands and knees [Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal of New South Wales, Matter No: 028/2013].
In 2011-12 the U.K. Care Quality Commission found a Southampton care home run by BUPA & others in oversight partnership was “at risk” of failure two years after opening [Hon John Denham MP, February 2012] and a 2007 U.K. inquest reportedly found BUPA’s level of care provided to the 91-year-old “seriously disturbing” [Watford Observer, “Coroner condemns Bupa nursing home for death”, 23 April 2009].
Media reports state that NSW Disability Services Minister John Ajaka refused to rule out a sale of the Home Care Service to either BUPA or SERCO.
I fear this privatisation move by the Baird Government will not end well for people living in the Clarence electorate and elsewhere in the Northern Rivers region.