A Senate Committee report on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)’s ‘historic’ health reforms, tabled last night, has damned the now, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, his leadership and his efforts to improve aged care.

Tabled on the same night which saw the beginnings of Julia Gillard’s official and public rise to power, the Senate report concluded that Rudd’s process of health reform was a “wasted opportunity” for real change.

Conclusions made within the Finance and Public Administration References Committee report sounded many of the same concerns raised within the aged sector’s submissions.

The report stated that the Government’s reforms did not go far enough to address the challenges of a rapidly ageing population and that more money, and further age-care specific reform was needed.

“The decision by Victoria to retain control of the Home and Community Care (HACC) program will provide additional challenges as the Commonwealth assumes 100 per cent responsibility for aged care policy and funding,” the report said.

“In the meantime, the aged care sector is still under funded and lacking in certainty about capital funding to ensure that new beds are actually constructed and maintained. The complex funding arrangements remain.

“It is doubtful that the measures to address the issue of long stay older patients will in fact see older people move out of public hospitals. To do so, there needs to be beds for them to go to and more importantly, staff to look after them.

“Given that the Government is to redirect $276.4 million funding over three years from high-care residential aged care beds to the states and territories to provide ‘similar levels of care’ for LSOP in public hospitals, this seems unlikely any time soon.”

Contained within the sector’s submissions were concerns about the timing of the health reform process, having been formulated before the completion of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into aged care (which is expected in April 2011).

In the Aged and Community Services Australia submission, it stated that the announced financial measures do “nothing to address the immediate issues facing the delivery of aged care services, the declining value of care subsidies relative to costs and the lack of adequate access to capital.”

The Australian Medical Association argued that the interest free loans needed to be supported by proper ongoing funding to ensure that new beds were actually constructed and maintained into the future.

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) also highlighted that extension of the Zero Real Interest Scheme would continue the “complex regime for capital funding, including as it does a mix of accommodation supplements, capital grants and zero real interest loans”.

“The extension of this highly targeted Scheme for two years does not address the long term sustainability of capital funding arrangements for the sector overall,” the CHA submission said.

Rudd’s aged care reforms however were supported within the Government Senator’s dissenting report, lodged in response. The reforms were branded “landmark investments in aged care” which supported the sector. 

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