On Friday morning, more than 700 people gathered at Perth’s Crown for a breakfast briefing on the future of aged care. Organised by WA publisher Business News, the event drew a diverse audience interested in charting the course for aged care in the years to come. The summit featured the Hon Amber-Jade Sanderson, the Minister for Health in WA, and a panel of leaders from various segments of the aged care sector.
The panel included some of the most influential figures in the WA aged care industry, including Renae Lavell, the Executive Director of Silverchain, Graeme Prior, the CEO of Hall & Prior Aged Care Group, Catherine Stoddart, CEO of Brightwater Group, Liz Behjat, ACCPA’s WA State Manager and Russell Bricknell, the CEO of Juniper.
The event was sponsored by the City of Mandurah, with its Mayor Rhys Williams providing an introductory speech about the desire to attract more aged care services to his town given demand currently outstrips supply. Williams spoke about establishing an Aged Care Training Centre of Excellence and the ideal environment that Mandurah offers for becoming an aged care hub. Along with an ageing demographic, Mandurah also holds the title for the most number of caravans per capita of any Australian town.
The summit delved into a multitude of pressing issues and opportunities facing the aged care sector with a general feeling of optimism expressed by all. The team at Business News commented that the number of attendees was above average when compared to other sector briefings.
Men and machines
Panelists shared the notion that technology and increased male representation within the aged care workforce should play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the industry. As the elderly population continues to grow, incorporating technology and diversifying the workforce can contribute to better care and support.
The discussion highlighted the persistent challenge of workforce shortages within the aged care sector. Juniper’s Russell Bricknell commented that they now need to invest in housing in a bid to attract workers to the regions.
Impact of the mining sector
The mining industry in Western Australia continues to attract workers, many of whom fly in from both metropolitan and regional areas. This places pressure on local services and highlights the need for a sustainable workforce strategy given these same workers are not available for local employment. While not all workers who work outside of a town are FIFO, the recent census showed that in the case of Mandurah 46.3% of workers who live in Mandurah work outside of the town.
Preparing for the Future:
The health minister and panel underlined the importance of preparing for an ageing population. The strain on the hospital system and the challenges associated with providing timely access to aged care services were key points of discussion, citing that any failure to do so has an immediate impact on the hospital system, where those over the age of 65 have the highest rate of presentation to emergency departments.
Technology and Telehealth
The discussion called for the integration of telehealth, virtual triage, virtual care, and advanced imaging. These technological advancements are deemed essential, particularly in a home care setting, to enhance the quality and accessibility of care. A number of panellists were quick to point out that technology shouldn’t be a replacement for personalised care.
Recent efforts to attract foreign workers were commended. ACCPA’s Liz Behjat highlighted that there are currently 5,000 pending applications from geriatric nurses in India waiting for approval to work in Australia and that their arrival would be a ‘game changer’.
The Path Forward
Despite the challenges, the panel expressed optimism regarding the future of aged care. The increased focus on ageing and the WA government’s proactive stance on addressing the sector’s needs have generated a positive outlook.
Attracting over 700 people to an early morning breakfast is another sign that aged care is certainly on the agenda in Western Australia.