A new survey has found more than one in eight allied health workers in residential aged care have lost employment, with another 30% expecting to leave the sector due to reduced hours since the introduction of the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model on October 1.
The survey, released by Allied Health Professions Australia, also found aged care facilities have cut their hours for allied health by 75% because of the funding model with two-in-five survey respondents saying their job has also been affected in that time.
Allied Health Professions Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bronwyn Morris-Donovan, said the survey shows that residents will suffer because of the reduction in allied health services.
“[The] Government has not set any allied health benchmark or targeted funding, and residential aged care is already starting to see serious impacts on both the workforce and consumers,” she said.
“The way the new funding model has been implemented has failed to address this and so allied health provision has now gone from bad to worse – it certainly can’t perform its restorative role.
“The loss of allied health practitioners in residential aged care has been swift and drastic – and is likely to have long-term negative impacts on residents and the rest of the care team who rely on them.”
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety found that allied health services such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians and speech pathologists are an important component of aged care to help maintain older people’s well-being and overall health.
But it also found these services are underused and undervalued across the aged care sector and that aged care residents received, on average, only eight minutes per person per day of allied health care.
Ms Morris-Donovan said that number has decreased to just five minutes since the AN-ACC funding scheme was implemented for residential aged care facilities.
“We know the average amount of allied health care has gone down even further from the eight minutes per day found by the Royal Commission – to just over five minutes,” she explained.
The Royal Commission’s Final Report recommended that the aged care sector should focus on the wellness, prevention, re-ablement and rehabilitation of older people, as well as viewing allied health services as a valuable and intrinsic part of providing residential care.
The Federal Government has said it will review the impact of the AN-ACC after 12 months but Ms Morris-Donovan said 12 months is too long to wait for a review allied health services use in aged care.
“Once skilled allied health professionals have left the sector, it will be difficult to get them back,” she said.
The Government have acknowledged that allied health plays an important role in the care sector, particularly in rural and remote settings.
They fund an Allied Health Rural Generalist Workforce and Education Scheme, run by Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) and a workforce incentive program to employ or retain allied health professionals.