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Shape up, or ship out

Providers have given Prime Minister Kevin Rudd an ultimatum. Fix aged care or else be punished at the polls in next year’s election.

A new coalition representing 95 per cent of all providers has written to Rudd saying they will work with other advocacy groups to make aged care a major election issue.

“In the lead up to the next federal election, we will be outlining a case for detailed changes to the aged care system to be undertaken or commenced in the next term of government,” the letter said.

Older Australians are suffering because of the current aged care legislation and funding, they said.

“The current legislative framework was established 12 years ago in the early days of the previous government. That government’s framework no longer serves the needs of older Australians. The need for reform is now urgent,” it said.

Martin Laverty, CEO of Catholic Health Australia and one of the 11 signatories to the letter, said the campaign would be high profile.

“People are going to hear a lot about this campaign. We’re going to be very active in the federal election,” he said.

The coalition includes ACAA and ACSA, and all church organisations providing aged care, including Anglicare, Baptist Care and UnitingCare Australia.

“The campaign has three very specific purposes. We’re asking the government to ensure aged care consumers have greater choice in how they access the types of services they need. The second focus is to ensure special needs groups are given adequate consideration, particularly those in financial difficulty. Thirdly, we want the government to ensure aged care is financially sustainable into the future so that we will have enough beds to care for older Australians,” he said.

The three objectives set out in the letter are consistent with the recommendations of the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission, the letter said.

CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia, Greg Mundy said the campaign would get underway in earnest in Februrary.

“We’ll be focusing our effots on marginal seats, particularly those with large populations of seniors. There will be person to person lobbying, as a collective group. But at the same time the individual organisations will continue their existing lobbying activities,” he said.

The faith-based operators will also be using their own community networks to further the message, he said.

The CEO of Aged Care Association Australia, Rod Young, said the latest round re-emphasised the fact that aged care providers can no longer build the number of places to match the department’s planning ratios.

“The small gap between costs and income is shrivelling. You add the higher cost of utilities and you’ve got a problem – an unsustainable problem” said Baptist Care Australia CEO, June Heinrich.

Anglicare Australia executive director, Kasy Chambers, said in relation to the aged care system “If we don’t address it, the system is going to fall over.”

Responding to the campaign launch, Shadow Minister for Ageing, Margaret May, criticised the government for failing to answer questions about its aged care policies.

May said that regardless what question is asked, Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot reverts back to stock responses about record amounts being spent by the government.

“The aged care system is falling apart, providers are starting to revolt and the current system cannot meet the challenges of our ageing population but Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot has articulated no plan to meet the challenge ahead,” May said.

“No matter what the question, the minister comes up with the same response that has been given to her by her department – that the government will provide record funding of $44 billion for aged care.”

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