The steep increase in the utilities costs of aged care facilities seen at the beginning of the financial year continued throughout the rest of 2009, according to an independent report.

The latest Aged Care Financial Performance Survey from Stewart Brown Business Solutions drew data from 380 facilities across Australia.

It found the average utilities cost was 20 per cent higher in December 2009 than six months earlier.

Electricity prices have risen most dramatically, although other utilities costs have been affected as well.

The average daily cost of electricity for each resident in the survey’s ‘Band 2’ facilities rose from $2.32 in June 2009 to $3.10 in December.

According to the report, this signals the need for a fundamental shift in residential aged care management.

“In the past these costs were often thought of as fixed and not ‘manageable’,” it said.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that managers will need to start managing these costs as well as those that have traditionally been within their purview.”

Another trend from the September quarter which continued throughout the rest of 2009 was a slight reduction in care costs for high care services.

The proportion of operating income devoted to staff wages fell from 73.43 per cent in June to 70.17 per cent in December.

In the latest survey, the ratio of registered nurses to other nursing staff was 5:1, down from 4:1 in June 2007.

General financial results were also up on the June figures, particularly in high care where the benefits from the increase in maximum subsidy rates in July were still being felt.

Thirty-nine per cent of high facilities and 48 per cent of low care facilities managed to achieve an operating profit.

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