Provision of aged care in regional areas

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will hold a hearing in Mudgee, NSW, from Monday 4 November to Wednesday 6 November 2019. This hearing is directed to the improvement of aged care service delivery in rural and regional areas, with a particular focus on the Mudgee region.

There are four areas for inquiry in the hearing, and a number of potential recommendations that might arise from each. Each area of inquiry has been chosen because of its potential for improvement of the aged care available for older Australians in regional areas.

Rural Australians make a huge contribution to the nation and deserve a first class aged care system. Regrettably, the evidence suggests they are not getting it. This hearing is intended as a major step toward changing that. The four areas are: sustainability of mainstream aged care in rural areas (including financial sustainability), the effectiveness of the Australian Government's current strategies to address disparities between aged care in rural locations compared with the rest of Australia, improvements to the Multi-Purpose Service program, and workforce initiatives.

The hearing will commence with a limited case study relating to a local residential aged care facility. Pioneer House is in many ways familiar as a small rural aged care service – it is governed by a volunteer board and operated as a not-for-profit community-based running a standalone facility. It faces a challenging operating environment common to many such providers. Pioneer House was sanctioned in February 2019 for failing to meet a number of expected outcomes under the standards. In this case study, the Royal Commission will explore what contributed to these sanctions, how Pioneer House has responded to them, and what might be done in the future to ensure better outcomes.

The Royal Commission will also hear from a panel of home care providers which service regional NSW. This evidence will explore whether changes to allocate home care packages to consumers instead of providers have had undesirable consequences for access to services in the thin markets of some regional areas.

The effectiveness of the Multi-Purpose Services model for the delivery of health and aged care services in regional areas will be explored. The Commission will hear from representatives from the NSW Ministry of Health and the WA Country Health Service about their experiences operating Multi-Purpose Service facilities in regional, rural areas.     

Dr Rachel Winterton, a rural ageing researcher at La Trobe University, will give evidence about some of the innovative approaches that are needed to overcome the challenges associated with service delivery in regional communities.

On Wednesday, the Royal Commission will hear evidence about the Australian Government's views on the sustainability of the model for provision of aged care services in regional areas, and opportunities for reform. It is expected that the Acting Deputy Secretary for Ageing and Aged Care, Department of Health, Mr David Hallinan and the Assistant Secretary, Residential and Flexible Care Branch, Department of Health, Mr Graeme Barden will give evidence.

The hearing will commence at 10:00am on Monday 4 November 2019 and will be held at the Windamere Room, Parklands Resort and Conference Centre, 121 Ulan Road, Mudgee.  

For more information about the hearing please consult the Mudgee Hearing page on our website.

Proceedings can be viewed or listened to using the webcast on the Royal Commission website. Hearing transcripts will also be available at the end of each hearing day.