The Federal Government hopes to tackle Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) backlogs with a new ‘Rapid Response Team’.
The $250,000 pilot project is part of a $1 million boost to cut assessment waiting times for older Australians in ‘black spots’.
It is expected that the team will target far northern NSW and northern Sydney before moving on to other priority areas across Australia.
A Sydney Morning Herald investigation earlier this month revealed aged care providers in Sydney’s northern region were waiting long periods of time to fill Commonwealth-approved packaged care places because of ACAT hold-ups.
The longest wait times were in the Manly-Warringah region, where the newspaper said the wait for an assessment from the Mona Vale Hospital-based ACAT was as long as 13 months.
The report said 263 people in the region were stuck on waiting lists during February.
At the time, June Heinrich from Baptist Community Services (BCS) told Australian Ageing Agenda that her organisation had been experiencing delays for several months.
“For example we have seven CACPs vacancies at Marsfield and a significant number of EACH packages that are unfilled because we haven’t had appropriate clients referred to us – and it has been that way for several months,” she said at the beginning of the month.
A statement from Mrs Elliot’s office said today’s announcement is the first step in response to a national ACAT review begun by the previous government.
“The sooner people are assessed the sooner they can get help – it is as simple as that,” she said in the statement.
“It is unacceptable that aged-care residential beds are vacant and community packages are not being used while people are waiting for assessment.”
Further recommendations from the National Review of Aged Care Assessment Teams include:
– Improving the way people are prioritised for assessment;
– Improving public awareness of the role of ACATs and how to gain access to them;
– Reducing administrative burdens on the teams so they can put patient solutions first;
– Increasing information sharing and networking between teams around the country;
– Establishing a national training strategy for ACATS; and
– The introduction of nationally consistent performance benchmarks for ACATs.
There are currently 115 ACATs across Australia and the Government intends to deploy more aged care assessors to help with the backlog of aged care assessments.
“We expect that this work will be mirrored in areas of need in Queensland and I will be encouraging cooperation across the country as part of the COAG priorities for reform,” Mrs Elliot said.