The Coalition says it will improve the relationship between the government and the aged care sector if it wins the federal election later this month.

The opposition plans to establish a four-year agreement with the industry’s peak bodies to set a framework for future aged care policy.

A major aim of the proposed agreement is to simplify aged care operations by cutting down red tape, streamlining community care and working with the states to introduce more flexible planning arrangements.

The Coalition would also set up a steering committee consisting of industry experts, government representatives and “other stakeholders” to help implement the agreement.

Shadow ageing minister, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said she hoped the agreement would allow the government to work more closely with the industry.

“One of the biggest problems for this industry is the lack of certainty and engagement,” she said.

“We want to work with the sector and enter into an agreement with it, similar to the pharmacy agreements.

“We have to work together. We cannot have major reform unless the government works with the sector. The government cannot dictate to the aged care sector – that is what this government has been doing and it hasn’t worked.”

The opposition has promised to begin indexing the Conditional Adjustment Payment (CAP) this year, pending the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s aged care review.

The Campaign for Care of Older Australians welcomed the CAP announcement, saying it was a crucial short term measure.

“Aged care providers have urged the restoration of this subsidy and its extension to community care – following its removal by the government – to ensure that quality services can be maintained,” the coalition of peak bodies and services providers said in a statement.

“The current subsidy scheme does not come close to matching the rising costs of providing care and services.”

The opposition will not bring any new money to the sector but it has pledged to scrap a number of Labor initiatives including the transition care program, the zero real interest loans and the payments for supporting long stay older patients in hospitals.

Instead, the Coalition would introduce an incentive payment scheme to convert 3,000 unused bed licences into operational places along with a three-week convalescent care program for older people leaving acute care.

“Before the last federal election the Labor government promised a transition program with the very specific aim of easing the transition between hospital and aged care,” said Senator Fierravanti-Wells.

“We don’t think transition care has worked properly, nor do we think the long stay older patients program or the zero real interest loans programs have worked. So we will take the money from those programs and target it in new areas.”

However the Coalition policy has come under fire from the government, which says the new policy has not been properly costed.

Ageing minister, Justine Elliot said the opposition has failed to account for $75 million worth of spending in its aged care proposals.

The Coalition says its decision to cut Labor’s program to support long stay older patients in hospital would bring about a saving of $150 million over four years.

But Mrs Elliot said that only $75 million had been set aside for the program in the budget.

“There is no new money for aged care services in [the Coalition announcement] – only cuts to services and a $75 million budget hole.”

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) also criticised the opposition’s policy, saying it would provide 3,000 additional beds without ensuring there were enough nurses to care for the new residents.

“Who will care for these vulnerable and dependant older Australians?” asked the ANF’s federal assistant secretary, Yvonne Chaperon.

“Extra beds without nurses to give quality healthcare will mean they miss out on the care and attention they need and deserve.”

Click here to see the Coalition’s aged care policy document.

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