Aged care providers say they are reviewing staffing models and putting building plans on hold in the wake of the government’s axing of the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement.
LASA Victoria held a meeting on Thursday attended by 50 aged care CEOs to discuss the impact on staffing and services in the state. President of the Victorian peak body Ingrid Williams said the supplement’s termination put budgeted and future services for people with severe dementia symptoms at risk.
Ms Williams said her own aged care organisation was looking to build a dementia-specific unit in Bendigo but she was now questioning the viability of that option.
“There are other providers who will certainly be looking at their pipeline of developments and wondering whether they can still go ahead,” she told AAA.
“I’m concerned that if we don’t invest in providing care and accommodation for people living with dementia there will be limited access to services for these residents into the future.”
She said the additional funding, which had been paid to eligible providers since August 2013, was being utilised to provide training, to employ additional specialised staff and support lifestyle and diversional therapy programs.
Eventide Lutheran Homes is another aged care provider that is now questioning a planned development of a dementia-specific unit. CEO Trevor Godenzi said the organisation had recently applied for aged care places and a capital grant to build this unit and was relying on funding from the dementia supplement to help meet costs.
Jewish Care Victoria CEO Bill Appleby said the scrapping of the supplement would now place greater strain on donors.
Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Adj Prof John Kelly said initial feedback from 25 of its members had shown that providers had budgeted a combined $28 million of spending on specialist dementia care, which relied on the supplement funding being available.
Prof Kelly said their organisations’ budgets would have been finalised and approved by their boards in April and May, many weeks before the minister’s surprise announcement to end the $16 per day supplement on June 26.
“This extra care for their residents was to be supplied by nurses and occupational therapists on the ground from 1 July. Now we have a situation where staff are in place, the services are required, but the funding has been cut,” he told AAA.
Catholic Health Australia director of aged care Nick Mersiades said five weeks’ notice from the government of the supplement’s cessation was not reasonable. He said the supplement should remain in place until alternative arrangements are determined.
“Many providers are now faced with looking how to save money wherever possible, rather than compromising the additional care they have been offering to people living with the severe behavioural symptoms of dementia,” he said.
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care Helen Polley told AAA the government should have consulted with the sector and conducted a review before dumping the supplement.
She said the government had failed to act to address the issues despite being aware of the higher expenditure since last year.
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