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Questions raised over wait for aged care assessment, packages

Assessment teams in just two states are meeting their targets for “high priority” referrals, health department officials have revealed.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care Labor’s Helen Polley has asked the Department of Health why the number of ACAT assessments performed annually has fallen from 223,649 in 2013 to 192,087 in 2015.

These figures are detailed in the latest Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act.

Senator Polley told department officials at a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday that she had been contacted by constituents in north Tasmania who had been waiting up to six months for an ACAT assessment.

Fiona Buffington, first assistant secretary aged care access and quality, said that under the Commonwealth’s agreement with the states to deliver ACAT assessments several key targets had to be met.

At the end of last year most states were meeting their target for low and medium priority referrals but just two states – Western Australia and the ACT – were meeting their target for high priority cases, Ms Buffington revealed.

Issue will be raised at meeting

Dr Margot McCarthy, deputy secretary ageing and aged care, told the hearing that the federal department would be raising the issue with the ACAT teams at their next joint meeting in April.

“Obviously in that meeting we’ll need to raise with them these issues of KPIs not being met,” Dr McCarthy said.

Ms Buffington said that with the introduction of the Regional Assessment Service the department had seen a “small flow to RAS rather than to ACAT” in 2015-16.

In addition, there had been a “period of lower productivity” in the first half of 2016 as the department moved to a new national assessment form, however as teams became familiar with the system the states had “climbed back up towards their KPI” in the second half of the year, Ms Buffington said.

Dr McCarthy said that from 1 July to 31 December some 80 per cent of comprehensive assessments were completed by ACATs within 34 calendar days of a referral from My Aged Care.

What’s the wait under the new prioritisation process?

Asked how many older people are currently waiting to receive a home care package under the new process that came into effect this week, Ms Buffington said it would take some time for the department to gather that data, as up until now waiting lists had been held by individual providers.

However, she confirmed that this information would be published so as to help the market operate. “Providers will be able to see where the demand is so that they can respond on market driven forces to provide supply,” Ms Buffington said.

When asked how long an older person would be waiting for a home care package once they had been assessed, the officials said that under the new national prioritisation system this would depend on the person’s need and how long they had been waiting.

As of 30 June 2016, some 78,956 home care packages were allocated and operational but only 64,069 packages were occupied, they said.

Are you having issues with ACAT assessment or the new national prioritisation system? Get in touch with us: editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au

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