Project targets hospital to aged care delays

A three-part collaborative project is investigating drivers and strategies for people waiting in hospital longer than necessary.

A collaborative regional project is investigating why older people are stuck in hospital waiting for a place in residential aged care and strategies to help them transition more quickly when they are medically ready.

The project – led by not-for-profit peak body Community Industry Group – has received $300,000 from the New South Wales State Government for the three-part initiative that includes the creation of transition volunteers to improve outcomes.

The project is focused on the state’s Illawarra region south of Sydney and responds to a lack of available residential aged care beds in recent years despite the implementation of a range of strategies to counteract delays.

The first part involves research into the drivers of discharge delays of older people into aged care facilities and a review of the ability of aged care services to meet the needs of these people. 

The one-year study will focus on the Illawarra region but it is an issue of national interest, said aged care expert Paul Sadler, who will lead the study with health services researcher Professor Kathy Eagar.

Paul Sadler

“We suspect that many of the factors that will come to play in the Illawarra will be reflected in other regions,” Mr Sadler told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Some local factors include the geography of the region, “because you’ve got a very small strip of land available before the escarpment”, a lack of available land and local government planning approaches not in favour of high-rise developments, said Mr Sadler, who is principal at Paul Sadler Consultancy.

On top of that are “challenges familiar in other areas and unavailability of residential care for people with complex behaviour issues,” he said. “There are around 100 to 120 people waiting for aged care placement in the region at any one time, and about 20 of them are chronically difficult to place.”

The researchers will work with the Aged & Community Care Providers Association aged care provider network in the area, Mr Sadler said, and look at the overall aged care supply in the plus the reasons aged care providers may have taken beds offline.

“There are staffing issues of impact as well because you might have an aged care service but finding the staff to man the place is one of the difficulties,” said Mr Sadler, who headed up provider peak bodies ACCPA and Aged & Community Care Services Australia for over a year combined following his departure from Presbyterian Aged Care after 14 years as CEO.

Volunteer program and taskforce being established

The second part of the project involves the creation of a team of discharge support volunteers – to be known as the Supported Transition Assistance Response Scheme (STARS) – to support the process of transfer for each person from hospital to an aged care home or their own home.

“They’re an additional resource on top of the discharge papers and social workers in the hospital system,” said Mr Sadler.

The third aspect of the project involves the establishment of a multi-agency regional health and aged care taskforce to oversee these projects and develop a regional health and aged care plan to address the ageing demographic needs.

NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park welcomed the project. “Collaborative projects like these are important in addressing delays in discharging older people from hospital which can slow patient admission times.”

CI Group – which represents community services in southern NSW – is uniquely placed to deliver regional collaborative projects to address this critical issue, said its chief executive officer Nicky Sloan.

“This funding will enable us to work with local stakeholders including aged care providers, the Local Health District, the Primary Health Network, local Councils, Dementia Services Australia as well as the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care to deliver three important initiatives aimed supporting the discharge of older people into an aged care service,” Ms Sloan said.

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Tags: Community Industry Group, Nicky Sloan, paul sadler, transition volunteers,

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