Jul 07, 2022

New aged care minister says Labor ‘inherited an absolute mess’ from Scomo

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.”

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  1. We have been waiting for several years for someone in the government to acknowledge the mess which is residential aged care and it took an election to do so. I strongly doubt that had the liberals won that the same acknowledgement would of occurred.

    There is a new funding model coming in and we are told that it begins on October 1. There are three very expensive months until that date, why can’t this new government put in place a short term subsidy of $20 per resident per day to carry us through? Or a one off payment of compensation, it’s been done before.

  2. The last time the industry was given a large amount of money was when RADs were introduced under the LLLB program designed by the industry and accepted by Butler under Labor in 2012. Spurred on by Abbott and Morrison after 2013 those ‘reforms’ created a feeding frenzy as big corporations and private equity entered the sector, borrowed and listed on the share market.

    They bought up smaller operators who tried to use the money to staff and provide good care and the unfortunate residents went with them. They squeezed the facilities for more profit and it did not go to care. The government stopped the rorting and care got worse. These companies were the donors who funded political campaigns. Policy and central regulation have both been captured by this industry since 1997 and what we are seeing is the consequence.

    Any new funding system is not going to work unless it is protected from profit taking as it was prior to 1997. Care and working conditions will not improve until the providers are required to work closely with the communities they serve and are directly accountable to them for the services provided. Funding will then go to staffing and care and a more collegial working relationships will make the sector more popular and not drive staff away.

    Commissioner Pagone started down this path but did not go far enough. His recommendations were ignored by government. Will Anika Wells defy Butler and the donors they served in 2012. Will she ensure that the increased money goes to care by working with local communities and counsels so that they can design the system they want and need instead the one the industry still wants?

  3. Foreign workers won’t fix Aged Care. It is a complete bin fire. A friend of mine went into to Aged Care today. Her room is freezing, the food is inedible, medications have been administered at the wrong times, she has been called “love, darling, dear, etc” even though she prefers to be called by her first name. At 1745 she was asked if she wanted to go to bed. Dinner was served at 1640. I had to go and visit her because she was crying. The basic problem with this home is the culture which enables people to be objectified and then robbed of their dignity. My friend is not incontinent but she has already been offered incontinence pads as if she is. People with different cognitive abilities are seated at the dinner table. Some people talk incessantly while other people appear to be over sedated and asleep. One woman coughed the contents of her mouth across my friends meal at lunchtime. No-one actually asks if you are okay because the truth is no-one actually cares. Nursing homes need Nurses. 20 years ago before the sector was deregulated and de-skilled it was Nurses who administered care. We need to go back to that now.

    1. Aged Care is not a Hospital its a persons home where the elders should be the masters and everyone else the servants.
      Read Dr Bill Thomas the Eden Alternative founder and Geriatrician of the ten principles of the Eden Alternative. This spells out where Aged Care providers and staff have got it wrong.
      Its driven by the clinicians and not the residents

  4. Thankyou for publishing this article.
    There are many issues to solve in the Aged Care sector.
    I appreciate that it is a mammoth task which has been inherited with no quick fixes.
    May I add that hiring staff from NESB is not always beneficial due to communication and cultural barriers with poor outcomes. Staff who are chosen need high proficiency in English.
    As a community Aged Care worker; I find that Expenses run
    Into many Thousands of Dollars; thus reducing taxable income to the same earnings as a pensioner and yet we cannot obtain health care cards or other concessions ourselves as our Taxable income includes all “allowances”. Living below the poverty line.

    The other ongoing issue is “Rostering” The Roster is everything. I was part of a roster project many years ago which was published in the media, yet rostering practices across many companies continue to be poor. We need a new standard and much improved accountability in rostering for every company. Then we will have the staff we so desperately need

  5. The continued politicization of aged care helps no one. Labour in 2014 introduced the Living Longer Living Better strategy so that there was no longer high or low care. During their tenure and the tenure of the Liberal government neither of them actually completed the job. To this day 9 years later there are still government forms that ask or stipulate low or high care. The strategy brought about a surge of for profit providers into the industry given that a Bond/RAD was now payable for all care recipients. And how has that turned out? Well, a significant number of providers now have millions on their balance sheets as liabilities and do not have the cash to cover it, and in some cases nor do they have the assets to do so. More providers are running at an operational loss than ever before. There are probably around 30,000 aged care beds in buildings around Australia that are no longer fit for purpose and due to building costs will not be rebuilt. So when they close over the next two years there will be a crisis of both accommodation and financially in the industry. And irrespective of how is in power nothing will change.

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