Church groups express concerns to Senate Inquiry

UnitingCare Australia and Catholic Health Australia say expanding residential services is almost impossible under current conditions.

One of Australia’s biggest aged care providers told the Senate’s aged care inquiry that without “substantive positive funding reform” it would have to withdraw from the provision of residential aged care.

UnitingCare Australia, which represents about 12 per cent of places nationwide, told a Senate committee hearing earlier this month that the sector needed greater investment.

The organisation’s Victorian aged care branch has closed two facilities in recent years and is planning to close another one in the next 12 months.

“They are facilities that are not meeting current community expectations and we cannot rebuild them and be financially sustainable,” said the Executive Director of Uniting Aged Care, Robyn Batten.

Ms Batten said plans for a proposed 90-bed facility in Victoria had been scrapped because preliminary calculations showed the home would lose $20 million over 20 years.

“[That] is not based on poor performance of our organisation, it is based on the published Stewart Brown benchmarks,” she said.

“We cannot pay for that capital when that is how much we would lose over 20 years, so we will not do that. We cannot do that.”

As Australian Ageing Agenda reported last year, only one small facility within the UnitingCare Australia network applied for beds in the current Aged Care Approvals Round.

The head of Catholic Health Australia, which represents about 10 per cent of aged care beds Australia-wide, was more optimistic.

Martin Laverty refused to call the situation in aged care a crisis but he did acknowledge that some of his members had been unable to expand their services.

“Some of our people have indicated very clearly, and they have done so publicly, that they did not seek additional bed licences in the last ACAR round,” he said.

“And, until there is a changed approach to capital financing, they are not in a position to take on any additional services.”

Mr Laverty said he was confident that the government would consider the recent proposals for change in aged care put forward by his organisation.

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