Funding top among urgent priorities, says industry

Aged care providers tell the minister they need financial relief now, not after a new and potentially redundant funding model is developed.

From left: Marcus Riley, Rachel Siewert, Richard Colbeck, Nick Louden and Kerry O’Brien.

Aged care providers tell the minister they need financial relief now, not after a new and potentially redundant funding model is developed.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck told the Leading Age Services Australia National Congress on Sunday that government was aware of the financial pressure providers were experiencing.

“I can read the reports around the depression … in the industry financially. I get all that and that’s one of the reasons we are working towards a new funding model for the sector,” Mr Colbeck told delegates.

“I am looking forward to watching very closely the process of the trial that will commence in November and run through until April next year on how the new system might operate.”

Mr Colbeck said he was encouraged by feedback received to date and was keen to hear providers’ views about the new funding model and process to develop it.

In a panel discussion that followed, BallyCara CEO Marcus Riley said it took years to design and implement a new funding system but the need for funding now “can’t be more urgent.”

Mr Riley also questioned whether designing a funding tool now based on where the sector has been rather than where it was going was the right approach.

“At the end of the royal commission we are going to have a new set of expectations and standards and a potential new system to meet those expectations,” he told the conference.

“Are we going to have to try and adapt what will be a redundant funding tool to a new set of expectations and a new way of operating,” he said.

“The smart approach is to supplement funding now to get it to a level that is workable whilst we are designing with the community, with consumers a system of the future and then fund that.”

LASA launches 16-point priority plan for action

LASA reiterated calls for an urgent $1.3 billion funding injection for residential aged care as part of a new reform and funding campaign launched at the conference on Monday.

The Working While We Wait campaign aims to increase pressure on the Federal Government to act before the aged care royal commission concluded this time next year.

Sean Rooney

LASA CEO Sean Rooney told delegates it was unacceptable that more than four in 10 residential aged care facilities were operating at a loss, 120,000 older people were waiting for a home care package aged care workers felt over-worked and under-valued.

“We need urgent action right now to avert the risk of service failures, job losses and missed care – with our total focus on the best outcomes for older Australians,” Mr Rooney said.

The campaign discussion paper provides 16 new reforms to address urgent issues and highlights the importance of seven reforms underway including the new residential aged care funding model and implementing the Aged Care Workforce Strategy.

The 16 priorities span residential aged care, home care, workforce, ageing well, and the interface between aged and health care sectors.

The priorities affecting residential aged care include:

  • $1.3 billion to ensure service quality and continuity and avert short-term risks of service failures, job losses and missed care
  • a subsidy boost to facilitate better care for people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia
  • removing regulatory barriers to providing additional services that support the principles of consumer-directed care
  • lowering the base interest rate providers are required to pay on unclaimed lump-sum accommodation payments to free up resources and remove perverse incentives that benefit the estates of some residents at the expense of others
  • building the evidence base for staffing requirements through undertaking additional research that accounts for the many aspects of staffing and operations
  • rapidly progressing the work of the Aged Care Industry Workforce Council
  • extending telehealth rebates for GP video consultations with residents to support equitable access to primary care in a timely and efficient manner
  • redesigning the forthcoming Community Pharmacy Agreement to allow stronger collaboration between facilities and GPs and support embedding pharmacists in the facilities through the Residential Medication Management Review (RMMR) program

“The proposed actions can be implemented quickly, with many of them likely to support and enable recommendations expected to be made by the royal commission,” Mr Rooney said.

He urged all industry stakeholders to engage with their local members of parliament to make them aware of the need for urgent action to support providers to better meet the needs of seniors.

New centre focuses on workforce, innovation

LASA also launched a new initiative on Monday to boost staff recruitment, dementia training, food quality and training on governance and customer service.

Mr Rooney announced LASA was establishing a national Centre for Workforce Development and Innovation that built on LASA workforce initiatives underway and responded to issues highlighted at the aged care royal commission.

Initial partnerships and projects include:

  • Churches of Christ Care delivering the Virtual Dementia Tour awareness training to 150,000 aged care staff
  • Aspen Medical exploring care models to help clinical health delivery in residential care in regional settings
  • the Lantern Project expanding aged care’s nutrition and mealtime experience and giving providers an assessment tool that measures, assesses, responds to and monitors malnutrition, mealtime satisfaction and resident quality of life
  • the Customer Service Institute of Australia delivering certified customer service excellence and complaints handling training for aged care from
  • the Governance Institute of Australia developing mandated best-practice modules for aged care directors and executives
  • Altura Learning developing high-quality programs to improve professional pathways for aged care employees

New charter aims to rebuild community trust

Sean Rooney and Dr Graeme Blackman.

LASA has also developed a shared vision and a set of guiding principles for its members to aspire to.

The LASA Membership Charter includes a statement of commitment for members to abide by and lays an explicit foundation for organisations whose shared focus is to realise high standards of quality and service.

Mr Rooney and LASA chairman Dr Graeme Blackman signed a ceremonial membership charter At LASA’s annual general meeting prior to the start of the conference on Sunday.

Mr Rooney said this initiative was an important early step in a longer journey for the aged care industry.

“The charter outlines the high level principles as the first stage of implementation which will be supported by governance oversight and administrative processes.

“The desired end point is to rebuild community trust and confidence in our sector.”

He said the charter would mature over time to include describing the consequences of behaviours and actions for those behaving outside the charter’s parameters.

LASA National Congress is taking place at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 27-29 October.

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2 thoughts on “Funding top among urgent priorities, says industry

  1. What does it take for reality to bite governments? I include all federal governments who for the last 20 years as stated in the recent paper published by the Royal Commission, have failed to act on recommendations made over and over again about the aged care sector. Now Minister Colbeck is reasserting at every conference and forum that the government is responding to the dire financial crisis faced by the sector, by trialling a new funding tool.
    All of the providers in the sector know that the funding deficit now well recognised through the Royal Commission work MUST BE ADDRESSED NOW. What does it take for government to move away from their ‘speel’ and understand that there are providers who are as we speak collapsing directly related to years of underfunding and growing expectations.
    I received an email on the weekend that commenced with ‘And So It Begins…………… commenting on the news of 2 rural providers facing insolvency immediately.

  2. The following quote from Minister Colbeck sadly emphasises the fact that he doesn’t know the industry and sadly doesn’t understand what he is talking about;-

    ‘I can read the reports around the depression … in the industry financially. I get all that and that’s one of the reasons we are working towards a new funding model for the sector,” Mr Colbeck told delegates.

    “I am looking forward to watching very closely the process of the trial that will commence in November and run through until April next year on how the new system might operate.’

    The ‘new funding’ model will not improve the financial viability of providers; ironically it will do the opposite as it will cause more financial stress and burden for providers. By changing to a payment in arrears model and also placing the surplus funds in the ‘hands’ of the department,this proposal will only intensify the financial pressures on providers and it will have knock on effects on consumers when they want a provider to purchase an item instantly. In short this will no longer be possible. New credit terms will have to be negotiated with suppliers who provide products or services via a Home Care Package. For an example under the new proposed model, if an Occupational Therapist( currently 14 day credit terms) carries out an OT assessment on 3rd October, the earliest they can expect payment would be 18th of November. This amounts to 47 days as opposed to 14 days under the current system. It can easily take 2 weeks post month end to complete all the necessary paper-work to submit the monthly subsidy claim, thus the reason for payment date of 18th of November. This is only one very basic example showing the inadequacies of the new proposed model.
    The goal of the new payment model is to claim back current funding from the providers to re-distribute/recycle within the industry without releasing ‘new’ funding. It only masks the issue as the Royal Commission findings will only point the finger to the Department and the Government for their lack of funding and investment into Aged Care over the last 5 to 8 years.
    This is a fancy trick by the Department to ‘pretend’ they are investing more funds into the industry when in actual fact they are only’recycling’ current funding and not releasing new funds.
    With wage costs in the industry increasing at a higher rate than the annual subsidy increases and the new proposed payment system, I feel the industry is at significant risk and some providers will be forced to close their doors. Additionally it will contravene what the Royal Commission is trying to achieve as quality of care will only get worse and not improve.

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