Further evidence has emerged of a fractured relationship between the Department of Health and Ageing and aged care providers.

TriCare CEO Jim Toohey told the inquiry that there is a “vast gulf between the sector and the bureaucrats in Canberra”, according to a transcript released this week.

“I think that it is fair to say that there is a perception in the sector that the department has gone beyond simply providing advice to government and has moved into the area of advocating particular policy settlements, such as maintenance of the status quo regardless of what the statistics say,” he said.

“I think that that generally has put a fairly bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.”

He described the department’s policy perspective as “arcane”.

However Mr Toohey said he had a strong relationship with the department’s state offices.

“I find the local Queensland people we have dealt with…very helpful, much more aware of industry developments and, generally, prepared to work with the sector,” he said.

The comments echo those made by Aged and Community Services Tasmania President, Susan Parr, at the Hobart hearing at the end of March.

Ms Parr told the inquiry that the department was “abusive and exploitative” towards the sector.

Mr Toohey is still disputing the department’s claim that the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) national building data shows an increase in aged care construction.

Earlier this month Mr Toohey told the inquiry that the ABS’s data is not limited to Commonwealth-funded residential aged care facilities.

An email from the ABS to Mr Toohey confirmed that the ABS does not “specifically measure Commonwealth-funded aged care facilities”.

Retirement villages are supposed to be excluded from the ABS’s aged care classification but this information is not validated.

The department however maintains that aged care construction is on the rise.

Assistant Secretary Dr David Cullen told the inquiry this week that the ABS figures are “almost identical” to the government’s data on Commonwealth-funded facilities.

“We can track the ABS data on construction activity with the data that we collect independently on our aged-care home survey,” he said, according to the transcript.

“Those numbers are within a few per cent of each other.

“It is our firm belief, our firm evidence to you, that the ABS data is residential aged care.”

The ABS said in a separate submission that it is not in a position to make comment on the claims made in other submissions.

“Neither the Building Approvals Collection nor the Building Activity Survey collect information on the source of the funding for any project,” the ABS submission said. 

“However the ABS does classify a building by sector of ownership.”

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