Aged care needs unified approach

A COOPERATIVE approach is essential to counter underfunding and deficiencies in the current aged care system, and to meet the challenges of future aged care provision, according to Swan Village of Care chief executive officer Bill Marshall.

And this team effort must include the Federal Government, aged care providers and the Australian community.

“The aged care industry has identified clearly that significant underfunding already exists, which is impacting on the ability to deliver the necessary service levels to seniors in Australia,” Mr Marshall said.

The Coalition Government implemented new funding arrangements for the aged care industry in 1997 as part of its aged care reform package. Since that time, costs have risen substantially faster than subsidy levels provided by the Federal Government.

The Government currently pays $105.15 to aged care providers for each person receiving the highest level of care, compared with $98.45 in 1997, an increase of just $6.70 per person over the past three years. It is estimated that this has left a shortfall of $156.8 million in funding over the past three years when compared with the real cost of providing quality care.

Aged Care and Community Services Australia, the peak industry body representing not-for-profit church, charitable and community providers of aged and community care, has embarked on a new campaign to lobby the new Minister for Ageing Kevin Andrews and Health and Ageing Minister Kay Patterson.

ACSA Western Australian Division executive director Sharon Staines said ACSA would be lobbying both the Federal and State governments on the issues of underfunding, the wage disparity between aged care and acute nursing staff, and the amount of red tape and administrative demands associated with accreditation and certification processes.

“Our approach (ACSA) with the new Government is (that) we have already put in our request for our first meeting with the new ministers and we will be doing the same with the Opposition,” Ms Staines said.

There is no doubting the need for a certification and accreditation process within the aged care industry in order to improve the living conditions and services provided to aged care recipients. But the combination of underfunding and the high costs of regulatory compliance has led to a situation within the industry where small providers are finding it difficult to remain economically viable while meeting regulatory demands.

Graham Smith, trust manager for Nedlands Aged Persons Homes Trust, told Business News he considers the concept of an accreditation process a very good one, but said it was unfortunate that “when bureaucrats get involved with the implementation, they produce something that is virtually unworkable”.

Mr Smith believes the added pressure on nursing staff to complete administrative duties associated with regulatory compliance, and a disparity of 24 per cent between the wages of aged care nurses and their counterparts in public hospitals, has led to staffing problems within the industry. He said aged care nurses were leaving the industry for better pay in other sectors within the health industry.

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