Bottleneck at My Aged Care slows access for new clients

Department beefs up staffing at contact centre over delays in screening and assessment, which has impacted RAS contractors, but says unnecessary referrals are adding to backlog.

Department beefs up staffing at contact centre over delays in screening and assessment, which has impacted RAS contractors, but says unnecessary referrals are adding to backlog.

The Department of Social Services says it is working to urgently address a number of issues that have emerged with the expanded My Aged Care gateway launched on 1 July, in what has marked a rocky start to the new system of national screening, assessment and referral of aged care clients.

The department said it is concerned about a significant backlog of web-based referrals and faxes to the My Aged Care contact centre and a low volume of assessments that have been conducted by the new Regional Assessment Services (RAS).

Craig Harris, access reform branch manager with the DSS, told an industry conference on Wednesday that high demand at the contact centre had challenged the effective operation of the service desk, speed of referral and quality.

“The end-to-end functionality of what we have put into place is working, but it’s not working to the level that we expect or accept,” Mr Harris told the Implementing the Commonwealth Home Support Programme conference.

Since 1 July, just over 11,300 clients had been referred to a RAS for a face-to-face assessment, which is well below the government’s projected forecasts, the department said.

Knock-on effects for RAS contractors and staff

Low referral volumes to the RAS had created significant financial concern for the 13 RAS contractors and their employment of assessors, the conference heard.

Glyns Webby, director of strategy at Blue Care, a RAS contractor, said the organisation had received only 3.5 per cent of its business allocation for referrals in the Northern Territory and 10 per cent of expected referrals in Queensland.

“We remain very concerned about the viability of our business model,” she told the conference.

Richard Johnson, chief operations manager at Suncare, which operates a RAS in Queensland, said he had been fielding calls from a number of assessor staff and local service providers concerned about a lack of referral activity in the CHSP.

However, Mr Johnson acknowledged that the flow of referrals from the contact centre had started to build in the last week or so.

The department told the Sydney audience that referrals for independent assessment had increased from 200 to 700 per day and on Monday hit a peak of 1,200 referrals.

Mr Harris said the department had recently increased the number of contact centre staff to 250 to help manage the higher level of activity, and had made a number of system and process changes to My Aged Care in response to sector feedback.

DSS had also changed the algorithim for high/low priority ratings for a referral from the contact centre, which was producing incorrect results.

Missteps by providers

Compounding the operational issues, Mr Harris said the department believed that some service providers were bypassing the My Aged Care system, which it described as an element of “system leakage”.

“There are providers who are potentially accepting clients onto their books and not sending them back to My Aged Care.”

Mr Harris said misunderstandings among service providers about the changes had contributed to unnecessary activity at the contact centre, with some service providers incorrectly referring all existing clients to My Aged Care, instead of those that have experienced a significant change in their needs.

A small proportion of providers were also yet to activate their services through the web portal in order to receive and accept referrals.

Mid-September target for resolution

Mr Harris said there would also be a period of adjustment for the sector as consumers exercised their ability to choose their preferred provider in the referral process, which may challenge expectations about consumer demand.

The department has set itself a mid-September target to have the system, process and change-related issues with My Aged Care gateway substantially resolved and to begin meeting its key performance targets.

Mr Harris said the contact centre, supported by system changes, was gaining experience quickly and he encouraged providers to raise ongoing issues with the service provider helpline.

My Aged Care statistics (1 July – 11 August 2015):

  • 17,446 clients have been registered
  • 11,325 referrals have been made for home support assessment
  • 4,470 referrals have been made for comprehensive assessment
  • Post 1 July, My Aged Care contact centre is receiving 16,000 calls per week
  • 4,700 fax and web-based referrals per week, but forecast 1,400

Share your experience of My Aged Care post 1 July by commenting below.

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Tags: blue-care, CHSP, Craig Harris, department of social services, Glyns Webby, My Aged Care contact centre, my-aged-care, Suncare,

17 thoughts on “Bottleneck at My Aged Care slows access for new clients

  1. So much buck passing. If this new aged care system was a new house build, I’d be suing the architect for malpractice. There are design elements that simply don’t work. It’s not a glitch but a system fault and the people losing out are older people! Stop finding excuses, harden up and accept responsibility!

    The designers were informed time and time again about the issues but chose to ignore. Now it’s going to cost so much more to fix. Poor show!

  2. Aged care consumers now on the new CDC Home Care ‘packages’ cannot access their annual entitlements until they have accrued, so effectively the $ to support them has no fluidity early in the financial year; a major weakness of all individualized approaches

  3. With regards to the statement “The end-to-end functionality of what we have put into place is working” by Craig Harris from DSS, I have to question that. Web based referrals simply did not work for weeks, wasting time as referrers kept trying, unsuccessfully, to make referrals. Referrers were forced to fax referrals, a highly inefficient system that involved printing off each page of a web based referral as it was completed and then faxing. Online feedback was as good as useless with a 90 character field for the actual feedback/complaint. Very long waits ensued for phone contact when trying to get answers re when the system would be functional again. Sadly, customer service once one gets through is less than professional as is that of those doing the initial screening of referrals. Seriously wishing I could bypass MAC.

  4. MyAgedCare

    How difficult this site is for the inexperienced (senior) person to navigate.
    It should never have been launched until all of the bugs were fixed.
    To keep an aged person on hold for 30 minutes prior to even speaking to someone totally wrong. Do they not realise that the people using this service are most likely on a pension and do not have the funds to stay on hold for that amount of time.

    Why would anyone send clients back to the My Aged Centre when it does not work and is not user friendly.

  5. I cannot understand why the answers to MyAgedCare screening questions are not passed on to the RAS, ACAT or CHSP service providers. They are meeting clients and asking all the same questions. Our consumers were told this new system was going to stop all the repetition of questioning. I am an aged care advocate and have seen firsthand that elderly people just cant understand why. And it makes the assessors and service providers look silly. No gains of reduced duplication and improved confidence in service providers at the moment.

  6. Back to the dark ages…
    We spent the last 10 years minimising fragmentation of services for older people and working collaboratively across regions to minimise confusion and maximise outcomes for individuals only to find our ‘new system’ appears to allocate services on ‘service types’ (not quite sure yet where this ‘wellness approach’ fits) and often with referrals to 2-3 different agencies! What a joke. We’re back to organisations fighting to ‘own’ the ‘client’ and with no appreciation of how confusing this is for the older person to have numerous people through their doors – terrible stuff.
    Never mind all the process issues, this is a terrible system for older people and their carers – a nightmare.

  7. aged client on TCP asked for ongoing referral to our service as he had been our nurses to attend to is wounds; this was put on the referral as requested by client, then he was referred to another service provider; the client was very unhappy and confused.
    waiting times on the phone to be answered 45 minutes far too long, some one seems to have forgotten these are elderly people we are dealing with here, where is the respect and caring? the they get interrogated for an hour and a half! this is what the elderly are reporting back to me as a community nurse; we would never do an assessment at one time for that amount of time it is cruel, overwhelming and totally inappropriate. the aged frail vulnerable people in our community need to be treated respectfully and with care, not sitting on the phone for more than an hour. many of them are on diuretics have to go to the toilet, have arthritis and have too move, have a life and other things to do. over the past 16 years I have done HACC and ACAT assessments and would never take this amount of time to do an assessment, I would break it into small parts and make the client feel comfortable and work at their pace. I was of the understanding these services were to be client centred, I think you have missed this ideal completely.
    Many aged people do not have a computer or access to one and do not want to learn. try again in 20 years when the next round of us are looking for services and those of use who are currently working are very computer literate will not have an issue. Some of these clients still only have a pass book at the bank! don’t have mobile phones , credit cards or use automatic tellers.
    I would like to see this service be respectful of our aged, supportive and working with them; the old assessment way did this and I believe the new way can also, but it needs to be trailed properly, and made consumer friendly.

  8. My Aged Care (MAC) is an night mare for everyone who has to deal with it I have not heard any good comments yet from client or family members who have assisted them with MAC. ACAT Assessor.

  9. What a joke! This is a result of another thought bubble perpertrated by the idiots advising the last governmnet and this one doent seem to have the spine to get rid of it. This system is a classic overkill as a result of a giant ego trip and should finish up exactly where Grocery Watch and Pertol Watch went. Remember them?
    Minister Fyfield, this is your NBN (Not Bloody Necessary)

  10. I have referred many clients to the portal using all 3 ways of phone ( took 90mins), email ( would not work for all of July) and fax. On referrals nominated preferred provider of client, yet not a single referral has been sent back to this provider.

    Others we have gone to see re an accepted referral eg. Woundcare, to find 3-6 other providers involved in clients care for differnt services like hyviene, domestic, continence, physio, OT….. Totally confusing for clients. No one able to take case management role . All having to Task Focus only – absolutely nothing holistic about this system. 2 clients I know of we’re in fact Palliative care yet not a single bit of information on NASF to indicate this. Both parties ended up in hospital system because families were too stressed to handle who was who, who was providing what and who they were supposed to call if problems or needed to change a visit time. They were having to call 6 different providers to alert to changed time as not a clue to whom was visiting that day. Nightmare for them. So unprofessional for service providers.

    This system as it stands is going to put already vulnerable people at risk. Complex, confusing, burdensome, too many providers in the mix, time consuming. A system already trialled and failed in UK and Canada, yet Australia still tries to input it. Does history not teach anything.

    NASF forms coming in of 67 pages long but only average 10 pages filled in.

  11. At the end of the day the people affected by this faulty system are the frail, the vulnerable, and the aged. Why are we making things so difficult and complicated for them? Wake up Australia!

  12. MAC – what a rubbish system!

    A family member referred her vulnerable parents to ACAT, for approval for residential care – had not heard for a fortnight so rang local ACAT wondering what was happening.
    ACAT rang MAC and after holding on for 35 mins finally found out one referral was sent to a completely different region, and subsequently rejected as they had no knowledge of him. The other (mother with advancing Dementia) was sent to RAS.
    Consequently ACAT has organised urgent assessments, without referrals and in spite of MAC.
    This system is adversely impacting our elderly, their families and the reputations of local ACAT Teams.
    Get rid of this bureaucracy and bring back local referrals.

  13. We were advised that Mac fielded the call & passed onto RAS. If this is true then why are clients being asked all the questions by Mac (45-60 mins) to then be sent to agencies up to 14 days later with “unfinished” on them.
    Rules seems to change every day.
    This scheme is supposed to assist the elderly, not make them more confused.

  14. I can understand why some referrers have bypassed the MAC. Long waiting times on the phone, inability of the system to accept on line referrals, operators refusing to accept over the phone referrals etc. I acknowledge this is not ideal practice, but where we have frail older people that need assistance sooner rather than later we want to act in their best best interests. It is disappointing given that the sector in the consultation phase highlighted the need for the MAC to be well resourced to minimise the potential for bottlenecks and the need to have skilled staff who understand the sector at the end of the phones…….On a positive note it is good to see that DSS is addressing the issues. It’s early days and until the system bugs are ironed out referrers need to find “work arounds” so that people do not “fall through the cracks”..

  15. While we are working with MAC and customers as best we can, we find it extremely frustrating that issues are not being resolved in a timely manner. One issue is notifications of referrals – this has been outstanding since July 1 and although we were advised it was fixed, it hasn’t been. Are providers expected to sit and refresh the screen all day to see referrals? It seems so. How hard is it to activate the notification to email??

    From a customer point of view, feedback is very disappointing. Long waits are the least of the issue. How confusing do MAC want to make it by referring 5 different services to 5 different providers? So the poor customer at the end of this has to go through 5 more assessments and cant remember which provider is providing which service for them. I understand the RAS are just ‘broadcasting’ referrals and in these cases 5 different providers have accepted as quickly as they can, but how is this in the best interest of the customer? Would it not be better if the customer requires 5 services to refer to one provider that can service all 5 requirements?

    My concern is that feedback is spreading through the community and the elderly will see this as too hard and too confusing and wont bother.

  16. Its no better now. Waited a month for someone to call us back. When we finally got on to them they said theyd call back with an appointment. Called on Friday and expected us to get time off work to be there on the Monday. After taking time off work to be there they called my mother who is non verbal, not us, and told her the assessor was “off sick” and they will rearrange the assessment. This is the second time this has happened. It cant be coincidence, surely?

  17. This is the worst scheme ever forced upon those over 65. We are now discriminated against by our government from accessing services at our community health centre without a referral from my aged care. When eventually you are contacted by the service provider at the centre you are asked all the same questions that one has answered to MAC assessors. Appointments are something way in to the future if at all granted. The arrogance of those who have been requested to provide services has to be seen to be believed. This scheme is about bureacracy and not about services to those over 65. The providers appear to want to screen out clients that have already been assessed with unreasonable demands and attitudes. All just typical of our uncaring health system and an uncaring minister who won’t even answer to correspondence over this woeful program

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