An aged care consultancy and technology provider has suggested spare aged care beds and the sector’s skilled workforce could be used to look after older hospital patients.
Mirus Australia said the government could facilitate the initiative by funding a matching service and reducing red tape.
Mirus Australia co-founder James Price said the proposal was about a better alignment of the hospital outpatient process and the residential aged care admission’s process.
“There’s something like 15,000 potential vacancies in aged care if we take the premise that 91 per cent is the national occupancy figure and there is about 220,000 beds,” Mr Price told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“If there is that spare capacity in aged care, wouldn’t it make sense to make that capacity more freely available to the hospitals so they can make a decision on could they move some of the elderly patients into aged care?
“Obviously not those who are on critical life support, but those who could be adequately professionally cared for in aged care,” Mr Price said.
The hospital patients could be close to discharge, palliative care or in need of complex health care for non-life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, pain or wound management, enteral feeding or oxygen.
These conditions are already treated in aged care, Mirus pointed out.
Proposal needs funding, less red tape
Mr Price said many facilities are well-tuned into accessing additional staff when needed and would be able to respond.
While there is often a premium for getting staff in at short notice, the argument is it costs governments $250 a day to look after someone in aged care but it is $2,000 in a hospital, he said.
Government can support this proposal by sponsoring a broker service so someone could ring around hospitals to offer aged care beds and by topping up costs providers may experience with agency staff, Mr Price said.
“And then the third thing, which is a key barrier, is any paperwork associated with ACAT to get a resident into aged care needs to be dropped in favour of emergency respite rules,” Mr Price said.
This would address a current challenge of the typical two-week Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) process to enter residential aged care, he said.
“If they don’t have an aged care client record then they won’t get funded. That needs to be made easier. It’s just red tape,” Mr Price said.
“If people think this is a good idea, we can help.”
Provider offers empty floor
Diverting patients to available aged care beds makes sense to Michelle Sloane, chief operating officer of NSW aged care provider SummitCare.
“We have the capacity clearly in our homes. We understand that the hospitals need to stop any bed blockages to accommodate the critically ill people coming in with COVID-19,” Ms Sloane told AAA.
Hospitals are the main referal sources for the provider, she said.
Ms Sloane said she and her leadership team have already reached out to Sydney hospitals to notify them about available beds.
“We have a floor at [SummitCare] Baulkham Hills that has yet to be commissioned; an entire floor. We thought it would be a perfect site if people wanted to discharge, particularly slow-stream rehab patients.
“Besides aged care patients, which we are always very happy to accommodate, if they had other patients who just wanted to be somewhere where they could rehabilitate themselves, then we have a whole floor,” she said.
Ms Sloane said they hadn’t received a huge response back, but that was likely because hospitals didn’t yet have an immediate need.
“Although our normal channels through the hospitals have been busy,” she said.