Rural and remote providers welcome recent government funding boosts to aged care provision, and the minister’s public commitment to resolving issues in the bush, but they say government action must go beyond the viability supplement.
While the Multi-Purpose Services model supports the delivery of aged care services where standalone facilities would not be financially viable, a new analysis highlights long-standing concerns that in some areas the services effectively compete with residential care.
The article from Charles Sturt University researchers comes following a recent injection of new funds into the MPS model by the Commonwealth as it seeks to address the well-documented issues facing aged care service provision in regional, rural and remote areas.
Australian Ageing Agenda has previously reported that in some regions of rural and remote NSW, MPSs are operating close-by or in the same town as aged care providers, resulting in direct competition (read that story here).
The CSU paper published this week looks at the role of the MPS in meeting the aged care needs of rural and remote communities and their sometimes controversial intersection with residential aged care.
But the paper also highlights the “funding and staff shortfalls” affecting both the MPS services and rural residential facilities more broadly.
The Federal Government has recently made a series of funding injections for aged care services in regional, rural and remote areas – including $8.5 million for the MPS program, which Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced last month.
In December, the Commonwealth announced an increase to the rural and remote aged care viability supplement, which was in addition to a $102 million boost to the supplement in the May Budget.
Minster Wyatt has stated publicly there needs to be “a secure model for rural and regional Australia” before government will consider the full deregulation of residential aged care places, as proposed by the Aged Care Roadmap.
“I want to protect country towns and rural populations, otherwise if we deregulate completely likely see country towns die,” he told the Australian Association of Gerontology national conference in November.
Last week, he told the National Indigenous Times that he wanted to encourage young and older Indigenous people to consider a career in aged care.
Services welcome comments but seek sustainable fix
Many aged care providers say they are encouraged by the minister’s focus on regional, rural and remote areas.
However, while additional funding is always welcomed, providers say the viability supplement is not an adequate measure to tackle the issues.
NSW provider The Whiddon Group, which has a significant rural and remote footprint, said it is hopeful the recent funding injection directed at MPS is a sign of more to come for rural and remote providers.
CEO Chris Mamarelis told AAA his organisation was supportive of government funding aimed at the inequities regional operators experienced.
“It is clear that Minister Wyatt understands the important role played by health services in these regional, rural and remote locations, and we are hopeful that this latest injection, directed at the MPS network, is a sign of better times ahead for aged care providers.”
Two of Whiddon’s rural and remote services, Bourke and Kyogle, are co-located with MPS and Mr Mamarelis said their approach was to work collaboratively to ensure the best outcomes for the communities.
Mr Mamarelis said it was widely recognised that the viability supplement was falling short when it came to crucial rural and remote services. He said:
“Like all care providers operating in these areas, we are hoping that the next announcement is aimed at not only improving the viability subsidy, but moving beyond this to focus on technology solutions, infrastructure, training and education and attracting and retaining the skilled workforce, all vital components of a sustainable aged care model.”
Similarly, in a recent interview with AAA, the CEO of Western Australian provider Juniper, Vaughan Harding, highlighted the shortcomings of the viability supplement and his hopes of a solution arising from Minister Wyatt’s comments.
“Things like viability supplements bear no relationship to the actual basket of goods and services we are providing and the additional cost that we need to carry. It is in the interests of everybody to find a more sustainable way of funding and supporting these services,” he said.
Mr Harding said he was optimistic that Minister Wyatt “who has got a feel for the three Rs” could can make real progress in this area.
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