A lack of data around unmet demand for aged care services, the failings of My Aged Care and the need for a sector workforce strategy are among the key issues stakeholders have raised with the government’s review into the aged care reforms, submissions show.
The Aged Care Legislated Review is seeking feedback to nine key matters including unmet demand, approach to supply and mix of places, aged care pricing and means testing, access to services, workforce and bond arrangements.
Submissions to the review closed on Sunday and a Department of Health spokesperson told Australian Ageing Agenda that 123 submissions have been received, with a small number expected shortly.
Analysis of the feedback from stakeholders including providers, consumers and professionals working in the sector is currently underway and the department said that further consultation may be held in the new year.
Like most stakeholders, provider peak Aged and Community Services Australia said the 2012 aged care reforms have brought about considerable improvements such as an increase in the number of home care packages and greater choice and control for recipients of aged care.
However, ACSA said other much-needed reforms including sustainable funding and expanded workforce capacity have not been delivered.
The peak repeated its support for a consumer-driven, market-based aged care aged care system as outlined in the Aged Care Sector Committee’s Aged Care Roadmap, and called for an industry-led taskforce made up of government and sector stakeholders to develop a comprehensive aged care workforce strategy.
ACSA also called on government to publish information annually about met and unmet demand for residential and home care places to enable the level of unmet demand to be understood and tracked over time.
It said My Aged Care including the website, contact centre, Regional Assessment Services (RAS) and Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) continued to experience numerous system and process issues impacting the effectiveness of new arrangements for consumers, carers and aged care providers, and called for investment to make improvement.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the majority of issues hindering the aged care system’s evolution related to a lack of aged care staff and recognition of the medical practitioner’s role in effective aged care.
The doctors’ group urged better coordination between the states and federal governments in dealing with health complications of aged care residents and more residential and home care places to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.
The AMA said that rather than simplifying access to services My Aged Care had instead complicated matters by requiring all seniors to undergo either a RAS or ACAT assessment to access services, and creating an assessment bottleneck causing delay in access.
It said My Aged Care should interact with clinical software and the clinical software used by GPs to cut down on duplication of paperwork for all health professionals involved in the older person’s care.
UnitingCare Australia also called for changes to My Aged Care and a new financial investment to improve the platform. It highlighted the need for a recruitment strategy for bilingual and bicultural workers to address the significant numbers of older people from Indigenous and CALD backgrounds currently experiencing communication issues when interacting with My Aged Care.
It said the Australian Government must work with the sector to develop and fund an aged care workforce strategy, and ensure improved data collection on demand for services and national aged care workforce employment patterns.
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital ACAT said My Aged Care was not entirely successful due to incompatible operating systems used by some ACATs, slow response and a number of unresolved technical difficulties.
“The speed with which MAC works should not be under-estimated as it is significantly impacting on ACAT assessor’s time and capacity,” it said.
Catholic Health Australia said it did not have access to adequate data to determine with any confidence whether unmet demand for residential and home care places had been reduced as a result of the reforms. But as the overall operational provision ratio had decreased since June 2011 it suggested a significant change was unlikely, except to the extent the introduction of income testing for home care packages may have dampened demand for the lower value home care packages.
CHA said the review was presented with an ideal opportunity to conduct a mid-term assessment of the feasibility of proceeding to the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to transition to a consumer-driven market-based system.
On this, CHA noted a key step identified in the roadmap was for financial modelling to test its affordability for consumers, providers and taxpayers under various scenarios, including consumer contribution scenarios in conjunction with demand modelling.
NEXT WEEK: Australian Ageing Agenda explores the key issues being raised with the review, in a special online series.