Second bill brought before Senate

The implementing care reform bill has been introduced to the upper house.

The second piece of aged care legislation – the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill – was introduced to the Senate on Monday where it received a first and second reading.

The bill successfully passed the House of Representatives on 1 September. As recommended by the aged care royal commission, the bill contains three major proposals:

  • increased transparency measures for providers
  • a cap on home care charges
  • mandatory requirement for facilities to have registered nurses onsite 24/7 by July 2023.
Katy Gallagher
Source: Australian Government

Introduced to the Senate by Labor Senator Katy Gallagher on behalf of Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells, the bill includes a mechanism for exemptions for facilities unable to recruit a registered nurse – a particular problem for rural and regional aged care homes.

The exact conditions for exemptions will be detailed at a later date in subordinate legislation following consultation with aged care stakeholders.

The Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care will be the decision-maker in respect to any exemption, and all exemptions will be subject to a time limit and regular review, Ms Gallagher told the Senate on Monday.

“Before granting such an exemption, the secretary must be satisfied that the provider has taken responsible steps to ensure that the clinical care needs of the care recipients in the facility will be met during the period for which any exemption is in force,” she said.

“The bill places a time limit on any exemption to a maximum period of 12 months to ensure that the exemptions are regularly reviewed. To increase transparency, the secretary will also be required to make publicly available information in relation to any exemptions that are granted.”

David Pocock

Appointing the department secretary as the decision-maker, and requiring a time limit and regular reviews for exemptions were among recommendations by Independent Senator David Pocock in the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs inquiry.

In response to Mr Pocock’s recommendation for the government to consider a mechanism for a review of exemption decisions, Ms Gallagher said the Quality of Care Principles would be amended to allow the Secretary to grant or not grant an exemption and decisions would be reviewable in accordance with existing decisions.

Also in the inquiry report delivered on 2 September, the Australian Greens noted the concerns raised by physiotherapists and other allied health providers about the move from the Aged Care Funding Instrument to the Australian National Aged Care Classification.

The Greens recommended “the Australian Government consult closely with aged care residents, providers, and allied health specialists to ensure that allied health services are appropriately funded and available to all who need them.”

Ms Gallagher told the Senate: “Residential aged care providers are required to deliver and are funded for the provision of allied health services to residents under existing aged care legislation.” The change from the old funding model to AN-ACC “does not alter these requirements,” she said.

As for consulting with sector stakeholders, Ms Gallagher told the upper house: “The government continues to collect information from aged care providers in relation to staffing costs and direct care hours. This will give government visibility of the provision of allied health services during and following the transition to AN-ACC and enable government to respond as necessary.”

The bill is scheduled for debate in the Senate on Wednesday.

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Tags: allied health, david pocock, featured, implementing care reform bill, katy gallagher, registered nurses, senate,

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