As the year comes to a close, today marks AAA’s final regular newsletter of 2019.
The teams behind Australian Ageing Agenda and Community Care Review would like to thank you for your support and engagement throughout the year.
We hope you enjoyed our online and magazine content.
It has been another busy year for the aged care sector.
While the aged care royal commission has dominated the agenda this year, there were plenty of key moments in 2019.
In February the government announced a one-off $320 million boost for residential aged care providers and $282 million for an additional 10,000 home care packages as part of $662 million funding package.
The 2019-20 Federal Budget, delivered a month early in April to account for the May Federal election, failed to give aged care providers and recipients the financial relief they were hoping for.
After the Morrison government was returned in May, Tasmanian Liberal senator Richard Colbeck took over as Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians as his predecessor Ken Wyatt became Minister for Indigenous Australians.
Throughout the year of royal commission hearings we heard many direct accounts from aged care recipients and family members, staff, providers, health professionals and bureaucrats.
Evidence was mostly about poor instances of care, a workforce under pressure and gaps in regulation. But there were also some good stories about providers doing well.
Then in October, this evidence and more was combined to inform the royal commission’s interim report, which was released just weeks after its co-author royal commissioner Richard Tracey died.
He and fellow commissioner Lynelle Briggs described the aged care system as a “shocking tale of neglect,” and said “this cruel and harmful system must be changed”.
They said the royal commission’s commitment to systemic reform will be the central focus of its final report in November 2020, but identified the overuse of chemical restraint, the queue for home care packages and younger people with in residential aged care as areas requiring immediate action.
The government responded almost a month later with a $537 million funding package to address these priority areas.
Most of the cash was for 10,000 additional home care packages, although only half are for this financial year.
That brings the total of new aged care packages in 2019 to 20,000 – what industry stakeholders described as a mere drop in the ocean in the context of the 120,000 people still waiting for their assigned level of care.
There were also 13,500 new residential aged care places and 775 restorative care places allocated this year through the Aged Care Approvals Round.
Despite the new places, home care packages, and boosts to funding, the sector is in much the same place as it was a year ago.
An increasing number of aged care facilities are operating a loss, and particularly those in rural, regional and remote areas.
Tens of thousands continue to languish on the home care waiting list.
This month, the joint call from seven groups representing aged care providers for urgent action in the government’s mid-year budget update to address these issues and avoid an aged care emergency in 2020 went unanswered.
Time will tell whether the emergency eventuates.
But there is no doubt that the busy trend of 2019 looks set to continue next year as the aged care royal commission, industry reforms and financial pressures continue.
In 2020, we will continue to bring you the latest news and analysis of the issues most important to you.
Watch up for a weekly Friday AAA newsletter featuring popular stories of 2019 during the holiday period.
CCR, which published its final newsletter of 2019 yesterday, will also send a weekly newsletter during this time.
We will be back in the office from 7 January, with regular newsletters returning the week after.
We wish you all a safe and merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Natasha Egan, Judy Skatssoon, Sandy Cheu, Amy Cheng, Mark Ryu, Emma Barklay and Mark Kuban.
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