The aged care royal commission has exposed uncomfortable truths about how Australia values and cares for our older people, according to the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI).
While supporting the commission's call for a new human-rights based Aged Care Act, NARI director Professor Briony Dow said: "A human-rights based approach will remain simply rhetoric if the structural and resourcing issues in aged care remain unchanged."
NARI said the Government must fund structural changes to ensure the Act can be implemented to its full intent.
"This report is a defining moment for aged care reform in Australia. It presents opportunity for Government to drive transformational change to regain public trust in the aged care system.
"All older Australians deserve access to high quality care that respects their dignity and preferences. It should encompass the right to freedom from abuse and neglect, and the right to make informed choices about their care," said Professor Dow.
She said that while the system needs better governance and regulation, the most pressing problems in aged care cannot be fixed by regulation alone.
"The thrust of Government's response to the report so far is very much regulatory and implies problems lie largely in the way aged care providers deliver services," she said.
"It does not acknowledge problems lie in inadequate resourcing and training."
"Unless all aspects of aged care are adequately funded, enacting further regulation will not bring about the meaningful changes recommended by the royal commission," said Professor Dow.
"A better system will cost more. But we need funds to increase resources, increase staffing levels and skills, and deliver care that is based on the best possible evidence and meets individuals' needs and desires."
NARI said report recommendations for increased staff and minimum staff contact hours per patient are a good start, but we must go further.
"The number of older people in residential aged care with complex health conditions or disabilities is rising, and there is an expectation aged care homes fulfil hospital-like functions," said Professor Dow.
"But providing high-quality medical care for older people requires specific knowledge and clinical skills.
"Government must fund more staff with greater levels of clinical expertise, and better pay and conditions.
"We must ensure adequate numbers of skilled nursing and allied health staff, supported by better integration with the primary health sector and specialist medical care."
Professor Dow said there was a need for greater transparency around how aged care is financed, and a need for funding mechanisms that cover the full care needs of each person.
"Those that exist are not sensitive enough to cover residents' full care needs or recognise differences in care needs," she said.