Sep 07, 2021

“Complete waste of time”: Peak body calls out government to focus on areas of aged care not working

AMA calls out govt

The Royal Commission into Aged Care recommended there be a single assessment process for aged care, replacing Aged Care Assessment Program and Regional Assessment Services.

However, they recommended the process remain “independent”.

“That assessment process should be undertaken by an assessor who is independent from approved providers, so that a person’s level of funding should be determined independently of the approved provider,” the commissioners said in their final report.

Aged care assessment teams (ACAT) assess the health of older Australians and determine if they can stay in their own home with more support, or if they require residential care. 

They operate out of public hospitals and include state-employed nurses, geriatricians and social workers.

Regional Assessment Services (RAS) assess lower needs patients.

A single assessment workforce must be based on the ACAT model, which is one aspect of Australia’s aged care system that is working well, the AMA, has warned.

However, the government is putting the process out to tender, which would likely receive submissions from private aged care operators.

In 2020, the government abandoned similar plans following strong opposition from state and territory health ministers, the AMA and the Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine.

Apart from the obvious opportunity for conflicts of interest if providers are able to deliver aged care assessments, the AMA is also concerned about a “dumbing down” of the assessment teams, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald.

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, has written to the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, the Hon Senator Richard Colbeck, expressing his concerns.

“Aged care assessments must remain independent of aged care providers and be delivered by health professionals, especially geriatricians who are trained in dealing with the complex medical needs of the frail and elderly,” Dr Khorshid said.

“A market-based approach is a recipe for aged care service providers to put profits before patients.

“The main concern around the privatisation of these teams is that we expect they would lose their medical expertise,” Dr Khorshid told The Sydney Morning Herald

“The government needs to focus on the many aspects of aged care that are currently not working instead of dismantling one of the few parts of the system that actually works well and simply needs more support.”

Under-qualified assessors could miss dementia diagnoses, the AMA has warned.

“Aged care assessments are imperative for picking up new dementia cases,” they said in a statement. 

“In 2012, 29% of patients were only diagnosed with dementia for the first time during an ACAT assessment.”

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  1. Aged care assessment teams (ACAT) assess the health of older Australians and determine if they can stay in their own home with more support, or if they require residential care.

    When Older Australians get into residential care there is a lack of appropriate funding, one major lack of funding is allied health services. This is almost always recommended in the ACAT assessment and the new ANACC funding model has no input for Allied Health. There needs to be funding for reablement to support Older Australians when they enter residential homes.

    We have a new funding model that is rolling out that has not been developed inline with the royal commission recommendations because it was developed prior to the RC. It doesn’t matter who conducts the assessments if the services are not even there to be provided. We can argue who conducts the assessments until the cows come home but Aged Care especially Residential Aged Care is lacking the clinical pathways for quality care.

  2. The present Federal Government merely wishes to offload responsibility for Aged Care and will only make changes which fit thier agenda including deliberately mis-interpresting the Commission’s findings.

  3. A diagnosis of dementia is not made following one assessment or interview of an older person. A complex process including a cognitive and neuropsychological assessment is needed to diagnose dementia.
    ACATeams have already been disbanded. The knowledge base which the previous ACATeams had has ensured the assessment of older people is not comprehensive or as client focused.

    1. With all the money the taxpayer is already funding for these places, the government should take over completely. I would rather pay more tax to stop this merry-go-round of incompetence now! It would also give every Australian peace of mind that no matter how rich or poor you are you will be cared for appropriately when the time comes.

  4. ACAT is only a key to the door. The recipient of the ACAT can make their own decisions on where and when they enter care. The ACAT may say that they are okay at home but the choice is the recipient.
    It doesn’t matter who does the assessment, dementia is rarely “discovered” at the assessment and in reality the various ailments will be the forerunner to the assessment.
    Make it easy and simple!

  5. Firstly it is not the Assesor job to decide if someone should stay home or move to care. It is their job to determine if the clients has care needs that could be supported with home care and or residential aged care and approve those services based on need. It should be the clients decision where they receive the care. It is essential that the assessment process is independent of providers so clients can have real choice on who and where they receive care.

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