By Angela Dorizas
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced a Commonwealth takeover of aged care policy and funding in the lead up to next week’s COAG meeting.
The Government will invest $739 million in the sector and take full responsibility for aged care, including home and community care, as part of its broader scheme to build a National Health and Hospitals Network.
Announcing the plan in Brisbane, Mr Rudd said the reforms would fix a divided system and end cost shifting between Commonwealth and state jurisdictions.
“The aged care system today is fragmented, with divided responsibilities between Commonwealth and state governments,” he said.
The Government will support the development of 2500 new aged care places through zero interest loans and provide an estimated $280 million to the state and territories to fund older Australians waiting in hospital for aged care places.
The reform package also includes incentives for GPs to provide more services in aged care homes.
“Too many older Australians spend more time than they need to in public hospital beds because of a shortage of aged care beds,” Mr Rudd said.
“In 2006, there were 2400 patients in hospital beds waiting for an aged care place despite having been classified for an aged care place, but no aged care place was in fact available.
“It is estimated that 31 per cent of transfers from aged care homes to hospitals, about 27,000 admissions per year, could be avoided through better GP care in aged care homes.”
Under the reforms, regional and rural communities can also expect an expansion of the Multi-Purpose Services, which provides aged care and step-down services in small communities, by 286 sub-acute beds.
Mr Rudd also announced a $34 million Commonwealth takeover of aged care services currently provided by the states under the Home and Community Care Program, effective from July 2012.
The Commonwealth will also spend $32 million on providing information and assessment for aged care services, through 'one stop shops' located across the country.
Mr Rudd said the Federal Government would provide the terms of reference to the Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into the aged-care system. The terms of reference will be released at the COAG meeting, following consultation with the states and territories.
Mr Rudd said he would continue to press the premiers and chief ministers to back the National Health and Hospital Network reforms.
“With the further details we have set out in the past two days we are presenting an even better deal to every state and territory government and for all Australians,” he said.
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