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Advocacy bodies slam Budget as failing to address aged care quality and workforce issues

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The Federal Government has claimed that its 2022/23 Budget offers “a record investment” in Australia’s health care system, including aged care, but aged care advocacy bodies have immediately slammed it for failing to address the crux of the current quality and workforce crises hampering the industry’s recovery.  

A figure of $468.3 million is being afforded to the continuation of the Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, building on the $17.7 billion investment in aged care announced in the 2021-22 Budget.

Funding has been divided across five pillars:

Home Care

  • $5.4 million towards the final-stage development of the new Support at Home Program, which will replace the current home care systems in 2023

Residential Aged Care – service delivery

  • $20.1 million over three years to support residential aged care facilities (RACFs) transition to the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model

Residential Aged Care – quality and safety

  • $345.7 million over four years to improve the administration of medication management for residential aged care residents
  • $22.1 million over three years to trial new models of multidisciplinary outreach care for residents in RACFs – open to proposals from states and territories
  • $18.3 million over two years from to extend arrangements for the third party quality assessor surge workforce to conduct RACF site audits

Workforce

  • $32.8 million over four years to provide additional clinical placements for students in the care and support sectors and to expand the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program to five new aged care demonstration sites
  • $49.5 million will be set aside to provide 115,000 more low and fee-free training places in aged care courses as part of the JobTrainer Fund
  • $6.9 million over three years from to support co-operatives and other collaborative business models access the aged, disability and veterans’ care sectors. The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals will be funded to support the start-up and development of cooperative and mutual enterprises, and deliver business resources and professional support

Governance

  • $6.1 million in 2022-23 to extend the aged care system regional stewardship outreach model for a further six months to December 31, 2022 to strengthen governance of the aged care system

Older Australians may also benefit from some items relating to the broader health system, including the $45.5 billion to be provided over four years to access more affordable medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the $4.2 billion to be spent on the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

We ask Mr Morrison, how many preventable deaths do there need to be and how many dedicated nurses or aged care workers need to be driven from their jobs before he finally fixes chronic staffing shortages, causing so much pain and suffering in the country’s nursing homes?

ANMF federal secretary, Annie Butler

But a record volume of spending has not been enough to impress consumer and workforce advocacy bodies alike, who have unanimously expressed disappointment with the Government’s fiscal approach.

Annie Butler, federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), said that the budget has failed to recognise calls from the industry to raise the minimum wage and working standards for aged care workers and nurses.

“Yet again, Mr Morrison has failed to do his job,” she said.  

“The Government cannot ignore the plight of nursing home residents, nurses and care workers, by failing to implement the royal commission’s key recommendations – safe minimum staffing levels, increased wages for aged care workers and genuine accountability for taxpayers’ money.

“We ask Mr Morrison, how many preventable deaths do there need to be and how many dedicated nurses or aged care workers need to be driven from their jobs before he finally fixes chronic staffing shortages, causing so much pain and suffering in the country’s nursing homes?”

LASA CEO Sean Rooney and ACSA CEO Paul Sadler issued a joint statement through the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), expressing disappointment at the “inadequacy” of the budget, which leaves much “unfinished business” in the resolution of the aged care crisis.

It [the Budget] will leave our dedicated workers on the edge of poverty and many older Australians without the services they need. Since the start of the pandemic, aged care workers have gone above and beyond; they should be getting the pay they deserve and career certainty.

ACSA CEO, Paul Sadler and LASA CEO, Sean Rooney

“It will leave our dedicated workers on the edge of poverty and many older Australians without the services they need.

“Since the start of the pandemic, aged care workers have gone above and beyond; they should be getting the pay they deserve and career certainty.

“The royal commission recognised this. It’s well over time for the Government to fix this once and for all.”

Catholic Health Australia CEO Pat Garcia also took aim at the Government’s failure to both subsidise pay-rises and stave off inflation.

“The Government has previously announced that minimum staffing levels will be mandatory in residential aged care, but it is far from certain whether there will be the workforce available to meet these standards, let alone the additional workforce required for the significant increase in the number of home care packages and the needs of the ageing cohort of baby boomers,” Garcia said.

“The Government could not even bring itself to support the royal commission’s recommendation for a change to the indexation formula for personal and nursing care funding that could have prevented further wage erosion.”

Amina Schipp, Aged Care Reform Now committee member, told Aged Care News that whilst “disappointing”, the holes in the budget are “unsurprising”.

“The Federal Budget seems to be an effort to keep Morrison in his role,” she said.

“Many of the issues that need addressing have been ignored – pay increases for aged care workers, for example.

“These are just more ‘Band-aid’ measures when major surgery is what is needed.”

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