A National Health and Hospitals Network: Further Investments in Australia's Health
3.4 Better supporting older Australians by investing in aged care
The Commonwealth Government will reform the governance of aged care and become the sole funder of a nationally unified aged care system through:
The Government will invest more to increase the capacity of the aged care system by:
These reforms build on the Government’s commitment to take majority funding responsibility for Australia’s public hospitals and full funding and policy responsibility for GP and primary health care services delivered outside of hospitals. By improving access and quality of care in the aged care system, these reforms will help take pressure off our hospitals, while ensuring the needs of Australia’s growing number of elderly people are met.
3.4.1 Improving the governance of the aged care systemThe Commonwealth Government will take full policy and funding responsibility for aged care. The Government will develop and deliver a nationally consistent aged care system that will enable older people to seamlessly move from basic help at home to residential care as their needs change. This will provide a platform for greater integration and innovation.
Current arrangements, with roles and responsibilities for community and residential care split between the Commonwealth and the states, lead to cost and blame shifting.
The Government will move towards establishing arrangements that better integrate aged care with the other parts of the health system and help older Australians find and access the services that suit their needs. As a step towards achieving this outcome, the Commonwealth will invest $32 million over the next four years so that older Australian and their families can:
- More easily access information and assessment for aged care services, through establishing one-stop-shops across the country.
- Be linked to assessment services, including through the Commonwealth purchasing some more complex aged care assessment services directly from aged care assessment teams.
- Be assisted to access services in the place that best suits them.
3.4.2 Increasing the capacity of the aged care systemThe Government will increase support for investment in aged care and ensure that rural and remote aged care services receive additional assistance, through investments totalling $263 million over four years. This investment will:
- expand the Zero Real Interest Loans program to support the construction of an additional 2,500 aged care places ($143 million); and
- provide capital funding for 286 sub-acute beds or their equivalent in rural and remote Multi-Purpose Services ($120 million). An additional 300 beds will be created as a result of an increase to the number of communities eligible for the program.
The Government will provide capital funding of $120 million over the next four years for 286 sub-acute beds or bed-equivalents in Multi-Purpose Services, building on the existing 126 Multi‑Purpose Services across Australia. Multi-Purpose Services provide integrated health and aged care services, generally in hospital settings, and are an important option for the delivery of hospital and aged care services in rural and remote areas. This investment will support up to 5,400 people a year when fully implemented. The Government will also alter its current guidelines to expand the number of rural communities eligible for Multi-Purpose Service funding. These changes will result in an additional 300 beds, providing care for 420 people each year.
The Government will also work with states and seek their commitment to release more land for aged care and to accelerate planning approval processes, so that aged care places can become operational more quickly.
3.4.3 Increasing the number of services in aged careThe Government will invest more to increase services in aged care through:
- $96 million over four years to improve access to GP and primary health care services for people in residential aged care;
- allocating up to 2,000 time-limited flexible aged care places to states and providing an estimated $280 million in funding for these places for Long Stay Older Patients over the next four years; and
- 1,200 Consumer Directed Care packages, through which care recipients have a greater say in how services are provided to them.
The Government will also provide funding for primary health care organisations from 2012–13 to increase access for older Australians to GP and primary health care. This is expected to result in an additional 190,000 primary health care services in the two years to 2013–14.
The Government will also provide assistance to states to meet the cost of Long Stay Older Patients in public hospitals. ‘Long Stay Older Patients’ are older Australians in public hospitals who have been assessed as needing aged care but who cannot be discharged because they cannot access appropriate aged care services.
The Government will allocate 2,000 time-limited flexible aged care places to states, and provide an estimated $280 million over four years to states to support Long Stay Older Patients in public hospitals. This will provide immediate financial relief to states for the costs of caring for the estimated 2,400 Long Stay Older Patients currently in public hospitals, while the impact of other measures to reduce the number of these patients works through the system.
3.4.4 Improving consumer focus and protection in aged careThe Government will invest a total of $25 million to improve the consumer focus of aged care and reduce the complexity of current arrangements.
From 1 July 2010, the Government will increase funding for the Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme. The Government will also provide older people and their families access to mediation and conciliation as an additional means of addressing concerns. Funding will be provided for additional staff and improved procedures for managing cases. In addition, the case loads of officers will be reduced to ensure investigations can be handled more quickly and thoroughly.
To better protect aged care residents who have paid accommodation bonds from their life savings, the Government will introduce more stringent rules for how bond money can be invested and improved reporting requirements. Without regulatory change there is a risk that approved providers may use accommodation bonds for other than the intended purposes of infrastructure improvement and debt reduction. The Government will consult with consumers and the industry and will work with relevant bodies to strengthen risk based prudential arrangements, with a view to putting new arrangements in place from 1 July 2011.
In addition to the above reforms, the Government will also provide the Productivity Commission with terms of reference for an inquiry into the aged care system following consultation with the states – to set out a path for reform to ensure that the sector is equipped to deal with future challenges. These will be released at the April COAG meeting.back to top