The CEO of industry peak LASA has described the current home care situation as “unacceptable in 21st century Australia” as he released a 16-point pathway to reform in the aged care sector.
LASA’s Working While We Wait discussion paper, designed as an interim measure to pressure the federal government into action while the nation awaits the recommendations of the royal commission, was launched at LASA’s annual conference in Adelaide on Monday.
It contains 16 priorities spanning home care, residential care and health interface, including promoting the Pension Loan Scheme to people on the national home care queue and creating a Home Care Loans scheme.
CEO Sean Rooney said with the pending release of the royal commission’s interim report on Thursday, there was an urgent need for action now.
And while the final report of the Royal Commission, set to be handed down next November, was likely to represent a “pivot point” for the sector, providers “must not wait to take actions that can make the system better right now,” Mr Rooney said.
“This paper provides our view on a planned and proposed policy reform activities that can be acted upon now and not wait until the release of the royal commissions final report in November 2020,” he told delegates.
The proposed actions could be implemented quickly, Mr Rooney said, with many of them likely to support and enable recommendations expected to be made by the royal commission.
He urged all LASA members to engage with local MPs to make them aware of the need for action.
“The campaign will ramp up the pressure because we need Coalition MPs to be well informed and pushing for the Government to fund interim reform solutions during the next sitting of Parliament,” he said.
Home care wait ‘traumatic’
Mr Rooney said the current home care situation was unacceptable.
While there were now more than 90,000 fully funded and allocated home care packages, in excess of 120,000 older Australians were still waiting for their assessed package, with many waiting over 12 months and some up to two years.
A reported 16,000 people died while waiting in the last year, he noted.
“The human toll if you’re sitting on that wait queue, languishing, can be traumatic,” Mr Rooney told delegates.
“Loss of independence, stress on family, the impact on household budgets, otherwise avoidable visits to hospital. In 21st Century Australia this is simply not acceptable.”
Incentives for consumer contributions for home care services
LASA says extending the PLS would help boost take-up of the scheme for those with the means, while the proposed Home Care Loans Scheme, offering more generous terms than the PLS, could be offered as an additional option to incentivise consumer contributions.
The priorities also include phasing in maximum home care wait times as a step towards a legislated maximum three months wait, and allowing people with lower means to be fast-tracked through the national priority queue in consultation with stakeholders.
LASA also wants to see more flexibility in aged care funding to remove the distinction between residential and home care and to simplify the transition from one to another.
The association is also calling for the Community Pharmacy Agreement between the federal government and the Pharmacy Guild redesigned to provide better access to the Home Medication Review program.
Meanwhile, LASA also on Monday announced a National Centre for Workforce Development and Innovation to drive excellence in the workforce.
Initial projects will include boosting recruitment and providing governance and complaints handing training, in partnership with the Customer service institute of Australia and the Governance Institute of Australia.
As part of the centre’s commitment to improving dementia training the virtual Dementia Tour, developed in partnership with Churches of Christ in Queensland, will be delivered to around 150,000 aged care workers.
“Getting workforce right is fundamental to getting care right,’ Mr Rooney said.
“It’s abundantly evident that we need a new approach to respond to the issues of ageing and aged care in Australia and a said shift from a mindset of requiring aged care to a lifelong journey of ageing well.”