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Peak bodies call on Government action to avoid New Year aged care emergency

Aged care peak bodies and service providers have united to petition the Federal Government to utilise their Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), due to be released next week, to address the immediate risk to senior Australians in a pre-Christmas appeal.

Aged care peak bodies and service providers have banded together to petition Government for more funding for the aged care sector. [Source: Shutterstock]
Aged care peak bodies and service providers have banded together to petition Government for more funding for the aged care sector. [Source: Shutterstock]

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia,  Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), The Aged Care Guild and UnitingCare Australia have come together to represent aged care providers in an aim to avoid an aged care emergency in 2020.

The organisations say that many providers are experiencing financial stress and believe the Government needs to support the industry now, as it’s going through the Aged Care Royal Commission process, not after.

While they commend the Government on addressing key issues in the Royal Commission Interim Report, they say it’s only the tip of the iceberg and the increase of Home Care Packages is insufficient to support senior Australians.

The peak bodies and service providers say without further investment into residential facilities and associated home and community care services there will be a loss in aged care over the next 12 months.

ACSA Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow, explains, “Nearly 75 percent of all rural, regional and remote facilities are running at losses compared to 50 percent in metropolitan, that is a system-wide problem, not an individual provider problem.

“In light of this and other research we have done, providers are looking at whether or not they should close facilities.

“We need the Government to act, particularly now for residential aged care, to make sure older Australians are going to be able to continue to receive residential care when they need it and where they live.

“If you look at what happens in residential aged care, our costs have been increasing much faster than the indexation. Older people come in now at a later stage and with more complex health care needs and the funding system hasn’t been adjusted in line with that.

“The Government is looking to make changes and see what the Royal Commission is looking to do around residential aged care, and we understand that, but I guess our message is that we can’t afford to wait.”

Ms Sparrow adds that coming to the end of the year, providers will be looking to 2020 to figure out if another year will be viable for their organisation, which is why it is important for the Government to make commitments now.

Industry analysis has found that 200 providers with up to 50,000 beds are experiencing high levels of financial risk with around 15 percent of providers reporting that may need to close their services in 12 months.

The united peak bodies are asking for immediate action on three key areas: residential aged care and workforce, Home Care Packages, and regional, rural and remote services.

Ms Sparrow says Government has at least taken action on Home Care Packages, although, it wasn’t enough of a boost for Home Care Packages.

Acting Chief Advocate for LASA, Tim Hicks, says, “There is a real and imminent problem that needs to be addressed with respect to residential aged care funding. The Government made some progress in addressing some of the issues in the Interim Report and we welcome that, with more needed to be done.

“But the silence on residential aged care is a real concern as we lead up to the MYEFO. If we don’t see any action on that, there is a very real risk on service failures within the year.

“In a number of rural or regional areas, or particularly in remote areas, often a residential aged care service is the leading place of employment for a small community… 

“There is not only a significant impact on the delivery of care to the vulnerable people within that community, but there would also be a major impact on employment and economic activity within the region and that would flow onto other businesses if those services were to shut down.”

Mr Hicks says the sector needs more funding before Christmas and all the peak bodies are increasingly concerned that may not occur, making a real viability risk for aged care facilities and services or the quality of services.

“At the end of the day, we need to see a system that protects the needs of older Australians, rather than checking the budget bottom line. And that is what we hope to see in the long run following the Royal Commission, but we need to get there,” says Mr Hicks.

Nicole Hornsby, Interim Executive Director at Baptist Care Australia believes it is very important that peak bodies have come together for the same cause. 

“There is too much at stake. We need to unite and pull together to ensure that we achieve the care for elders that everyone wants,” says Ms Hornsby. 

“Many providers are already at a tipping point with many facing some really difficult financial challenges. Without further investment, some of these providers will fail.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Aged Care Guild, Matthew Richter, is in agreeance with Ms Hornsby about coming together to petition the Government.

“The Royal Commission has highlighted the aged care sector must come together to solve the issues in aged care and the Aged Care Guild fully supports this approach,” says Mr Richter.  

“Last week’s joint statement reaffirms a united commitment to push government for meaningful reform to ensure senior Australians receive quality care now and into the future.   

“We are focused on ensuring the nearly 200,000 senior Australians in residential care are not forgotten in this discussion and emphasising the need for a holistic and long-term plan for aged care in Australia.

“We want to ensure good quality care is available for all, when and where they need it. A well-functioning industry that focusses first on senior Australians is one where good providers will thrive.”

Executive Director of Anglicare Australia, Kasy Chambers says the organisation is concerned that the Government is prioritising surplus over services.

“When you have big peaks and providers standing together like this, it says something, the level of crisis,” says Ms Chambers.

“We have lots of information around what we need to do, particularly in the workforce area, we just need some commitment of funds from the Government, we would be saying next week that services really need to come before surplus. 

“You can have a surplus, but there is not a point of it if the elderly are unable to access the care that they need and the care that they need is unable to give the level of care that people need because of the lack of funding.”

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