Aged care reforms are no panacea

By Angela Dorizas

The Federal Government's proposed takeover of aged care does not go far enough to address short and long term issues within the sector, industry experts have warned.

Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive officer, Greg Mundy, said the reforms were a good starting point, but they did not address underlying problems within the sector.

“As the Prime Minister has said, the plans are a first step and not a panacea for aged care,” he said in a statement.

“However, in the immediate short term we expect the Government to use the Federal Budget as a means to address the crippling financial concerns of the aged care sector.

“Funding must meet the real costs of providing care and services. Currently the subsidies fall well short of the mark.”

Mr Mundy welcomed the announcement of a Productivity Commission inquiry into aged care.

“When the Government announces the terms of reference, which we anticipate soon, we expect a commitment to endorse and implement real changes likely to flow from the Commission’s recommendations,” he said.

The Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA) chief executive officer, Rod Young, welcomed the Commonwealth takeover of the Home and Community Care Program

“ACAA also welcomed additional funding to support GPs visiting aged care facilities but believes that further initiatives are needed such as the ability to contract with group practices and IT systems that will integrate medication administration and electronic prescribing,” Mr Young said.

He said a number of short and long term issues had been left out of the reform package, including additional support to attract and retain adequate numbers of skilled nurses and carer staff.

Mr Young said there also needed to be adequate indexation to reflect annual cost increases in both residential and community settings and a change to the capital charging rules to support the building of new nursing home places.

The Australian MedicanlAssociation (AMA) welcomed the investment but advised that more funding would be required to meet future demands.

AMA president Dr Andrew Pesce said the provision of an additional 2500 aged care places through interest free loans would not go far enough to take the pressure off public hospitals.

“Interest free loans to build new beds must be supported by proper ongoing funding so that the business model for aged care facilities is viable in the long term,” Dr Pesce said.

“This extra funding is needed to ensure that these new beds will actually be built, opened and maintained over the longer term.

“Unless there is absolute certainty that these new aged care beds will actually eventuate, there is no guarantee that they will have the desired effect of freeing up beds in public hospitals.”

Dr Pesce said the incentives for GP services in the aged care sector were inadequate and would not secure ongoing medical care for residents of aged care facilities.

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