'The system would be an invitation to those wanting to game it for profit' - Dr Michael Wynne
THOUSANDS of elderly Queenslanders are at risk of abuse as untrained workers flood private homes to act as aged care workers.
A legal loophole allows anyone to set up business as an aged care provider in Queensland and access millions in federal funding.
The businesses are taking advantage of an explosion in demand for at-home care. Workers not only perform household tasks but bathe clients and lift them out of beds, and oversee medicines.
A series of aged care industry figures, including retired Brisbane surgeon and University of Queensland lecturer Dr Michael Wynne, have expressed concerns about profits over-riding the nation's duty of care to seniors.
The Federal Government has strict guidelines ensuring aged care providers who receive federal funding for at-home care hire only trained, accredited workers.
But those providers are also permitted to sub-contract less medically intensive aspects of their workload out to agencies who are not technically required to provide trained workers. Industry figures say the agencies need only sign a form saying they are ``working towards accreditation''.
Several such businesses, including at least two overseas franchisees, are operating in Brisbane, meeting a growing demand for at-home care from ageing Baby Boomers who see an ``old people's home'' as a last resort.
The businesses require little more than public liability insurance and Workcover to begin operating, and aged care activist Lynda Saltarelli of agedcarecrisis.com says they undermine standards in the move to home care.
``Many of those who require care . . . have complex, chronic conditions and need people with training and skills to provide that care,'' she said.
Dr Wynne has for the past decade expressed concern about financial exploitation in the aged care industry, making several submissions to Federal Senate inquiries.
He says the US has had serious problems as a result of allowing commercial enterprises operating primarily for profit to provide care for the elderly.
Dr Wynne said: ``The system would be an invitation to those wanting to game it for profit because of the difficulty in monitoring what services untrained staff are providing.''
Those concerned about the standard of care should contact the Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme on 1800 550 552.
Source: The Courier Mail - Michael Madigan in Canberra