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Senate committee hears allied health issue ‘a matter of life and death’ for aged care residents

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The fight for explicit allied health provision within the incoming AN-ACC funding model has been brought to the (virtual) doorsteps of parliament.

Alwyn Blayse, head of the Death of Allied Health campaign (formerly ‘Death of Aged Care’), spoke at an online Senate Committee hearing on November 9, and said this issue is ‘life or death’ matter for residential aged care facility (RACF) residents.

“I’m seriously concerned about the Government’s decision not to separately fund physiotherapy and allied health in aged care,” he said.

“I do believe – and many in my industry do – that this will be the death of physiotherapy and allied health, which is absolutely vital, and life or death, for older people.”

“The AN-ACC is a very complicated model based on a lot of research, but for physiotherapists and frontline workers, what I can tell you is the question we are asked most repeatedly is: what will Mum and Dad do about physiotherapy after October 2022 and who will pay for it?”

Blayse’s prediction, which he passionately communicated to senators, is a dire one: RACFs will simply not fund the services at all.

It is a sentiment shared by Scott Willis, president of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, who noted in October that the lack of clarity in the current policy is setting the industry up for job losses.

“The Government has said it will monitor the care provided and introduce regulation in the future if required, but the lack of clarity about funding for critical health care such as physiotherapy in the aged care sector is causing enormous uncertainty,” Willis said.

“Waiting another two or more years to address the issues we are highlighting now, will only see the health of older people at risk and unfortunately physiotherapy jobs lost.”

In response to Blayse’s submission, Senator Janet Rice, Greens Party member, asked: ‘What’s needed to turn this around?”

Blayse answered, “The actual author[s] of the AN-ACC called for allied health to be embedded into the AN-ACC, with separate mandated minutes of 22 minutes per day based on recognising international standards.

“That recommendation has not come across, despite the fact that recommendation 38 from the Royal Commission accepted the need for more allied health than the eight minutes a day at the moment.”

Anita Westera, an Australian Health Services Research Institute fellow whose work underpinned the AN-ACC, told Aged Care News in October that there is indeed a disparity between their research and the current policy outcome.

“It has always been our position that allied health should be embedded within the AN-ACC… and be able to be publicly reported against within the new 5-star rating system that the royal commission has recommended,” she said.

“Despite this, the royal commission and the Government have been at odds in regards to supporting the need for increased funding and accountability of allied health in residential aged care.”

Blayse told Aged Care News that he is feeling grateful to have the issue on the public record.

“The silence before has been deafening and I’m grateful other organisations supported what we’ve been saying as well.”

Whilst the result of this consultation process will not be immediately known, Rice did put forth the possibility of a delay, “so that we can actually ensure that detail is there and that the AN-ACC is going to be the appropriate model”.

Blayse responded that he would be “very supportive” of this.

“… It’s a significant change to the health system and it does require time to work out the detail…,” he said.

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