Newly appointed Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, has spoken candidly about the need for “urgent reform” in aged care, describing the current situation as a “crisis”.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Ms Wells outlined the depth of problems in aged care the Labor government faces as they attempt to action “urgent reform as quickly as possible”.
“Every rock I turn over, it is worse than we thought and I think that is the experience across the board,” Minister Wells told The Guardian.
“The sector has drifted for nine years under the previous government – their reform was sluggish and opaque, and clearly the [former] Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, chose not to act and risk upsetting anyone when leadership was needed.”
The Minister revealed that the current aged care system is in dire need of a new funding model to ensure that the sector remains financially viable, claiming that the federal government is currently supporting a number of providers to remain open.
According to the Guardian, Ms Wells said a new pricing model would be introduced as soon as possible for the new system to come into effect in October, but there was no talk of lifting the indexation rate for provider payments, despite industry backlash.
At the time of the federal health department’s budget announcement on July 1, interim chief executive officer (CEO) of the Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), Paul Sadler, was vocal about the lowly subsidy increase of 1.7% which equates to a funding cut when adjusted for inflation.
In a recent statement speaking on behalf of ACCPA, Mr Sadler welcomed the Minister of Aged Care’s acknowledgment that aged and community care needs “urgent reform” and that the situation is worse than initially thought.
However, Mr Sadler was also quick to remind Minister Wells and the general public that funding shortfalls in aged care were a looming issue flagged by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s 2021 Final Report.
“In particular over the past week we have made it clear that the 1.7% indexation announced July 1 as the amount by which aged care subsidies paid to providers will increase during 2022-23 falls [sic] is patently inadequate,” Mr Sadler said.
Mr Sadler added that Ms Wells’ comment that “every rock I turn over, it is worse than we thought” has run true among providers right across Australia’s aged care sector.
In the lead-up to the federal election, Labor committed to a number of changes in the aged care sector that included greater financial transparency, more staff and better pay for aged care workers.
In her recent interview with The Guardian, Ms Wells revealed that she is currently in talks with Minister for Immigration, Andrew Giles, about changes to the visa system that would allow foreign workers to help fill the staffing void in aged care.
She also confirmed that the government is supportive of a pay rise for aged care workers, but refused to specify a figure.
“We have to get people back into the workforce who have left the workforce; we have nurses working part-time hours who would gladly take on more hours if the money was there to make it justifiable,” said Ms Wells.
“We are supportive of a pay rise, but traditionally the government does not put a number on its submission and we won’t be putting a number on this submission.”