Peaks welcome boost to residential aged care funding

Doctors’ groups have welcomed the additional $98 million to increase payments to general practitioners visiting aged care residents announced in the Government’s half yearly budget update.

Doctors’ groups have welcomed the additional $98 million to increase payments to general practitioners visiting aged care residents announced in the Government’s half yearly budget update.

The funding is among several initiatives targeting aged care recipients in the federal government’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook announced on Monday, which includes 10,000 additional home care packages to be available within weeks and increases to the rural and remote and homeless supplements for residential aged care providers (read more here.)

The government announced it was investing $98 million over four years to increase the fee paid to general practitioners treating aged care residents to help ensure they have appropriate incentives to visit aged care facilities.

“This recognises the important role of GPs in supporting the health and care of patients in residential aged care,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a joint statement with aged care minister Ken Wyatt and health minister Greg Hunt.

President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Dr Harry Nespolon said he commended the government for better funding GPs who visit aged care.

“This funding is an important first step in addressing the concerns of the RACGP about the future of healthcare in residential aged care facilities,” Dr Nespolon said.

As part of this package, a $55 Medicare payment will be introduced to cover travel time and costs for GPs attending aged care facilities, he said.

“This new style of payment goes some way to acknowledging the time and commitment required by GPs to provide often very complex services in residential aged care facilities,” Mr Nespolon said.

Tony Bartone

Also pleased with the announcement, Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said the AMA especially welcomed the acknowledgement of the important work of GPs in aged care.

The AMA released a member survey earlier this year that raised concerns over doctors cutting back on facility visits (read more here).

“Older Australians in residential aged care deserve access to the same quality of care from their GP that they have enjoyed throughout their lives,” Dr Bartone said.

“This funding will help GPs continue to visit their older patients in aged care facilities.”

However, he said the additional funding could be undermined by the planned abolition of the Aged Care Access Incentive (ACAI) payment from May next year.

“The ACAI must be retained. Otherwise, services to the frail and elderly in aged care facilities will be put at risk. There is an ever-increasing tide of GPs who are signalling an end to their aged care facility visits.”

Peaks welcome boost to supplements

Other initiatives announced for the residential aged care sector include an additional $101.9 million for the viability supplement for eligible providers in regional areas and $9.3 million for those receiving the homeless supplement.

Pat Sparrow

More than 550 services, which includes around 13,500 residential care places, receive the viability supplement and 42 residential services receive the homeless supplement on behalf of more than 1,700 residents, the Government said.

Provider peak Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) welcomed the injection to support aged care services in rural and remote areas and those caring for homeless seniors.

“It acknowledges the financial realities of rural providers, and those caring for homeless older people, struggling to maintain vital aged care services in the face of worsening financial conditions,” Ms Sparrow said.

“Sustainability of aged care services is important for older Australians and their families who rely on the care provided, but also for the economy and the communities that are supported by those services.”

Sean Rooney

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said the focus on homelessness and helping regional residential aged care facilities was helpful, but he highlighted industry’s calls mid-year for $675 million a year to address the almost half of all residential aged care facilities running at a loss.

“The age services industry is committed to reform and is working with the Government and other stakeholders on a continuous improvement agenda, but adequate resourcing is needed to make the aged system better right now.

“Providing levels of funding that reflect the increasing costs and growing demand for age services is the only way we can guarantee a sustainable age services industry that meets the growing and changing needs of older Australians in all types of care settings,” Mr Rooney said.

Read more here: 10,000 home care packages in $550m aged care boost

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