Aged care looking for regional workforce

NEEDS TO CHANGE: (Back): Port Lincoln mayor Bruce Green, Bob Ramsay, Rod Patterson; front: Gail Adler and Raelene Fuller met last week to discuss the future problems faced by the aged care industry.
NEEDS TO CHANGE: (Back): Port Lincoln mayor Bruce Green, Bob Ramsay, Rod Patterson; front: Gail Adler and Raelene Fuller met last week to discuss the future problems faced by the aged care industry.

AGED care facilities across Eyre Peninsula and the regional workforce will feel the pressure of Australia's ageing population sooner than expected.

According to data from Regional Development Australia, the average age of Eyre Peninsula's population is shifting upwards and will significantly impact the regional workforce and aged care facilities.

With the number of Australians over the age of 65 set to double to 25 per cent of the population in the next 40 years, nursing home coordinators and development companies are worried about the region's ability to handle the swelling numbers.

"It's like trying to turn off a broken running tap that's filling an overflowing bucket, there's already a very large aged care problem and it's going to be tough to fix it," Regional Development Australia special projects manager Bob Ramsay said.

"If people continue to ignore the problem and only start worrying about it when one of their family members need aged care, it's going to be a big mess."

Aged care on Eyre Peninsula is mostly served by community and non-for-profit facilities, with the Matthew Flinders Home serving Lower Eyre to the Western Australia border, excluding Kimba and Whyalla.

Currently the home has 64 beds in use with 30 people on the waiting list, a number Matthew Flinders chairman Rod Patterson said was too high and was only going to get worse.

"We can only have so many people here, without any extra infrastructure we can't accommodate anyone else, that number is going to continue to rise and all we can do is stare at it," he said.

"We only have the infrastructure that we've got, nothing more."

Along with the health and aged care sector, the regional workforce is also set to feel the sting of an ageing population.

By 2020 if everyone above the age of 65 retired and if Eyre Peninsula's proposed industry projects go ahead, the region will be 3800 people short for jobs that would be available.

Port Lincoln mayor Bruce Green, who attended a meeting between aged care coordinators and Regional Development Australia, said while there did seem to be an aged care and industry problem, the council did not have the inherent responsibility to address it.

"Council has a mild interest in aged care and will do what we can to help by way of the recent public health plan and supporting local health and aged care agencies, but we are not entirely responsible to tackle the problem that has been described today," he said.

The health and aged care sector is one of the biggest employers on Eyre Peninsula, including being the largest for Port Lincoln and the second largest employer in eight other councils.

If more aged care facilities were built in regional areas or a secondary facility to the Matthew Flinders Home was built to alleviate the pressure, more spaces would be open and theoretically further jobs would be created in an already booming industry.

But Mr Patterson and Matthew Flinders chief executive Gail Adler both said that without crucial federal funding and without residents being aware just how big the aged care and ageing population problem is, nothing was likely to improve.

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