Hunt continues for ‘phantom’ beds

ONE WA aged-care provider could lose four Federal Government-funded beds amid rumours of trading in lucrative bed licences.

With the hunt for ‘phantom’ licences continuing, one aged-care provider in New South Wales has had 68 low-care bed licences revoked.

Minister for Ageing Kevin Andrews ordered an inquiry into beds that were allocated more than two years ago and had not yet been made operational.

“There is a need for residential aged-care beds and the community expects those to be delivered within the two years provided,” Mr Andrews said.

However, if the four bed licences in WA are revoked, they will be reallocated to another provider in the same area.

Bed licences are given for beds in aged-care institutions.

It is common knowledge within the aged-care industry that these licences can be traded.

For example, a person could apply for a number of bed licences and be granted them even though he/she has no land to build a facility to house them. They then opt to sell those licences to an aged-care provider for up to $40,000 per licence.

Each year the Government allocates bed licences to aged-care providers on a needs basis, according to the number of people aged over 70 in any given area.

The bed licences are divided into three categories – high-care, low-care and community aged packages.

High care attracts the highest level of funding and is attached to beds in high dependency care facilities. Low-care licences are allocated to hostel-type care facilities and community aged care packages are for the independent living-style facilities.

These licences are divided up among aged care providers amid fierce competition.

Last year (ironically the allocations were made in January) the Government granted 8,000 places worth $150 million in recurrent funding around Australia.

WA received 678 bed licences worth $17 million in recurrent funding, along with $3.52 million in new grants in the 2001 allocation.

The 2002 allocation is expected to be made later this month.

Southern Cross Aged Care WA’s Kevin Bowen said changing demographics in an area could harm bed licence allocations.

“If you have more younger people moving into an area it can affect the number of beds you are allocated,” he said.

“It is possible for people to apply for bed licences without having a facility or even land to build one on.

“Conversely, you can have the situation where providers that have been in the industry for some time often have land available.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Andrews said the bed licence arena was a very competitive market.

“For every bed given, six providers want it,” she said.

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