The Federal Government has ruled out the full deregulation of residential aged care places until adequate safeguards can be put in place ensuring provision of care in regional and rural Australia.
Aged care providers and consumer groups are lobbying for the Commonwealth to uncap the supply of residential beds, which are currently allocated on an annual basis to providers.
They argue the regulation of places leads to oversupply of beds in some areas and undersupply in others, which means some older people miss out on residential aged care.
The multi-stakeholder group advising government on future reforms, the Aged Care Sector Committee, proposed the full deregulation of both aged care places and prices in its Aged Care Roadmap in April.
But speaking at the Australian Association of Gerontology national conference on Wednesday Assistant Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt said the government would not deregulate beds until there was “a secure model for rural and regional Australia.”
“I want to protect country towns and rural populations, otherwise if we deregulate completely likely see country towns die,” he told the Canberra audience.
Asked when the government would move to implement consumer directed care into residential aged care, Mr Wyatt did not give a firm commitment to the proposal, but acknowledged that there were currently waiting lists for aged care places in some areas which limited choice for consumers.
“But as we move forward and providers start to think what they have to offer and how they can attract people I think will see a paradigm shift in what is offered,” he said.
“I would hope providers will start to think base services they provide but what are additional services they will include to residents.”
— Aust Ageing Agenda (@AustAgeAgenda) November 1, 2016
Focus on special needs groups
Elsewhere Mr Wyatt made it clear that any future reforms would need to consider special needs groups, such as Aboriginal seniors, veterans and LGBTI seniors, as well as those living in rural and remote areas.
“These groups often have complex and unique needs and we require an environment that fosters innovation and in which providers can develop and deliver tailored services,” he said.
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