Interview on 94.7 The Pulse with Mitchell Dye

Transcript of the Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt's interview on 94.7 The Pulse with Mitchell Dye.

Page last updated: 08 August 2017

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2 August 2017

Mitchell Dye:
First up this morning on the line we have the Minister for Indigenous Health and Aged Care and also the Member for Hasluck in Western Australia. A very good morning to Minister Ken Wyatt.

Ken Wyatt:
Good morning, Mitchell, how are you? It’s good to be on your program.

Mitchell Dye:
Yeah very well indeed. Thank you very much for joining us. And lots to talk about your portfolios today. So thank you for offering to come on and tell us a little bit about what’s happening. First of all, can you just explain your two portfolios – Indigenous Health and Aged Care – what are the big issues in that space at the moment?

Ken Wyatt:
Well Indigenous Health is the issue of the disparity that exists in so many of the illnesses. Vaccination rates: we lead Australia across the nation, so I’m pleased with those. In terms of chronic complex conditions, rheumatic heart disease, otitis media, and a range of other issues that – because of the diversity of this country – creates challenges for me.

Mitchell Dye:
And what are the cha- sorry, what are the challenges involved with trying to provide services to Indigenous communities?

Ken Wyatt:
It varies according to location. The level of access to GPs is at around 47 per cent … of the Indigenous population that go to GPs. The other 57 per cent go to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. The access to specialists and the journey through the optimum pathway in hospitals has always been an issue and early deaths. We’ve still got to push out life expectancy to equal that of the rest of our nation.

Mitchell Dye:
What do you think are the challenges there? We hear a lot about closing the gap and the statistics presented routinely are quite alarming. There’s still quite a big gap, isn’t there?

Ken Wyatt:
There is, but I think we’ve also got to celebrate areas where we have jewels in the crown: programs that are working, that are making a difference on the ground. And what I find with those is that they connect to families, they involve families, and that has been a game changer. And I think that we’ve got to do that uniformly across the nation. Most of our programs we shape around one size fits all. And I’ve never believed that one size fits all. So we’ve really got to look at area by area. And we’re looking at service gaps at the moment, we’re identifying where funding is going, our transparency around our decision-making. And on that basis we’ll make some better judgements. But I’ve formed a partnership with all of the royal colleges of medicine to look at ways that they can be key players; because their members hold leadership positions in hospitals, health systems, and in health service delivery.

Mitchell Dye
Now one of the campaigns being run at the moment is the $116 million anti-smoking campaign called, I think, tackling Indigenous smoking. Can you just explain why the Government’s focusing on this particular issue?

Ken Wyatt:
Well the smoking rates in Indigenous people have been historically high. And we’ve seen the reduction- what’s great now in Australia is you can go to a restaurant and there’s no cigarette smoke around you. Thirty years ago you’d be in a smoke filled café. So we’ve had that influence on Australians, but we’ve not had the same level of influence on Indigenous communities. And I think some of that is historical, because people were paid in tobacco, flour, blankets, etcetera. But then people with stress often turn to a substance. And in this instance, for our communities, smoking has always been a factor. It’s modelled, passive smoking occurs. And Tom Calma has done a brilliant job in rolling out the program and we’ve seen a tremendous reduction.

Mitchell Dye:
And how does the campaign work? Because governments have tried a lot to reduce rates of smoking, including olive green packets and putting all sorts of graphic pictures on packets. And also, from what I understand, cigarette packets will cost $40 by 2020. So how does this campaign approach things differently?

Ken Wyatt:
Well what I know of the program, what I’ve seen on the ground, is the appointment of coordinators, people who roll out the program with community at the local level and with families. And they’re there in [indistinct] and they’re talking people through how tobacco is harmful. But they also- and I went to one community controlled organisation. What they did is looked at the rates that people smoked that came to the service, and then they calculated how many cigarettes they’d smoked over a year. And one woman, when she ceased, they celebrated, because she stopped smoking 7000 cigarettes in a year.

Mitchell Dye:
And that’s obviously a big saving and a big improvement to one’s health. Can you tell us a bit about organ donation and what’s happening in that particular area?

Ken Wyatt:
Well we’ve had a good year in terms of 1713 Australians have been organ and tissue recipients. And that’s from 503 donors. We’ve also had 267 Australians also say I’m a living donor, I want to give my kidney to my brother, sister, or somebody close to me. So we’ve had an increase in the number of people donating. But we’ve started some campaigns. We worked with the local Amcal chemist in South Perth; who has now put up a screen in his pharmacy so while people are waiting, they go to the website, they have a look at the details they’ve got to put in. And he was- I was talking to him last night and he’s had a significant number sign up to become organ donors just in that pharmacy.

So we’re going to try and partner with the Pharmacy Guild to roll it out across Australia. The National Rugby League are coming on board. So is the AFL and the Football Federation of Australia is also becoming a partner, and we did an incredible launch with them just recently. And a local government in Perth – the city of Swan –said, count us in, we’d like to do something. So they’ve launched a campaign, and they’re going to send out in their rate notices information about becoming an organ donor and how easy it is for people just to put in donatelife on their phone, up comes a screen that will ask them to put in their Medicare number, the item number that they are on their Medicare card, their first and last name, their address, post code, and then whether they wanted to receive an email. And they just send. It’s as easy as that.

Mitchell Dye:
And also you’ve got to have a bit of a conversation with your family, don’t you, if you wish to donate organs? Just so that they know how to make the right calls, obviously, in an end of life scenario?

Ken Wyatt:
That’s critically important. Because what we’ve found is where people have the discussion with their family and expressed their desire; nine out of 10 families honour that desire and commitment. And we’ve got to understand that in a time of absolute grief, some people just don’t want to think of that. And that’s why some families will say no, even though they know that their loved ones wanted to donate. Later on, I’ve had a couple who have said to me, I wish we’d honoured his or her wishes. So it is a tough time, but if a donor wants to have their organs and tissues made available to others, they’ve really got to stress that - the importance of their decision to their families.

Mitchell Dye:
Do we have stats as to what percentage of Australians are on the Organ Donor Register?

Ken Wyatt:
No, because that’s changing. And once we had them, because of these campaigns – and I’m meaning to wait till after the major campaigns that we’ve got with the League clubs, and with the sporting groups, and with local governments as that evolves – then we’ll go back and have a look at what the increase has been based on last year’s figures.

Mitchell Dye:
Now, can you tell us about aged care and that portfolio, which is the other portfolio that you hold. Is there a connection between that and Indigenous health, or are they really two separate and completely separate portfolios?

Ken Wyatt:
They’re two distinct portfolios. Actually, I love both portfolios. I like aged care in particular because there’s so much being done. The reforms that came after the Richard Marles, the Living Longer Living Better legislation, put in place. But we’ve built on that and we’ve extended the opportunity for people to receive their package and then make their choice. Because in the past, the money used to go the aged care providers, and you’d have to hunt around, find a provider that would take you. This way, the money now goes – the packages now goes – to the individual, and they can shop around. So it changes to an empowerment of individuals. [Coughs] Excuse me.

Mitchell Dye:
And obviously, that’s a good thing; having the empowerment of individuals. And now we see a lot of this in, for example, the NDIS. But are there people that are on-hand to help guide people through that process? Because sometimes, when people haven’t been used to making choices in the past, lots of choices can be quite overwhelming at times.

Ken Wyatt:
They are, but we’ve also got My Aged Care portal; which people can go into. We’ve still got some teething problems, because it’s only two years old. But it’s been very effective in guiding people to some of the choices that they want to make. But there are also, within communities, non-government organisations that also are supporting people make those decisions. Because not everybody has a family, and the other issue is people with low levels of literacy need help.

Mitchell Dye:
Yeah. Now, from what I understand, you are currently seeking consultation on the increasing choice in home care reforms. Is that right?

Ken Wyatt:
Yes, we are. We had the David Tune review, and that’s finalised now. So David will be handing down his report. I have the Oakden review, which I’m looking at the standards and what went wrong from the Commonwealth perspective in terms of what we were responsible for; so we can make sure that we don’t have this situation happen again. And then on top of that is the Senate inquiry report; which looks at workforce. So there’s a number of reviews that are in train at the moment that I will now go through and work with the sector and with consumers about how do we make it better than what it is, or how do we improve some things that need improving?

Mitchell Dye:
Just our last of all, in summary, what do you think is sort of the biggest challenge that we have to overcome in the aged care space at this time?

Ken Wyatt:
Not having the earlier discussion. I had a radio caller, when I was on a local radio station here, who said: I didn’t know what it required until I had to put my mother into aged care. And he said it was an emotional situation, my mum didn’t want to go. He said I knew that she was frail. And he said, I was torn between disobeying my mother; but knowing that I needed to help. So we really have to start having conversations as parents much earlier, about what we want when we go into aged care; so that our children can understand our wishes and carry them through. So there’s a parallel between all of the work that I do in terms of having early conversations and planning, and that is absolutely important in the journey that we have to take. The second thing is we’ve got to think that we are no longer old at 60. We are living to 100, and we’ve got to think about 100 years of living. And changing that mindset is going to be challenging.

Mitchell Dye:
Lots of challenges ahead. Well, Minister, thank you very much for joining the program this morning, and for giving us those overviews of those two portfolios, greatly appreciated.

Ken Wyatt:
Mitchell, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.

Mitchell Dye:
Thank you, Minister Ken Wyatt there, also Member for Hasluck in Western Australia.

ENDS

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