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The grand plan?

Submissions to senate committee on COAG reforms highlight worries

COAG’s aged care reforms lack detail, an explicit implementation plan and do not address the real challenges facing the provision of aged care, a Senate Committee report has concluded.

Public submissions to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee criticised the planning, coordination and timing of the Commonwealth takeover.

With the Productivity Commission inquiry into aged care ongoing, ACSA expressed concern that current reforms could not take into account the Commission’s eventual recommendations.

“The fact that reform of other parts of the overall health and aged care system is proceeding ahead of this specific aged care Inquiry raises the risk that elements of the new health system will be put in place before the necessary linkages with aged care are fully considered.”

In terms of representation, ACSA said the aged care industry also has no real place at the healthcare reform table and the package’s financial reforms were ineffectual.

Industry, consumers or the aged care workforce are not represented in any of the government structures set up to advance the health reform agenda, ACSA said.

Until the Productivity Inquiry report is complete, “the aged care sector is still under-funded and still lacking in certainty about capital funding to ensure that new beds are actually constructed and maintained,” the Committee report concluded.

It is unclear how seamless delivery of services is to be planned for when the management of hospitals will remain a state wide responsibility, said ACSA.

While supporting the move to full Commonwealth responsibility for aged care,

ACSA said reform of the community care sector is not guaranteed by having a single level of government.

The Committee report said the decision by Victoria to retain control of the HACC program will provide additional challenges as the Commonwealth assumes 100 per cent responsibility for aged care policy and funding.

It also doubted whether the extra money for long stay older patients would reduce the number of older Australians stuck in the public hospital system and said building capacity in the aged care sector was needed.

The allocation of places to hospitals could be at the expense of the expansion of residential and community care places, said Catholic Health Australia.

“In the short term the allocation of places to hospitals may obscure the fact that they are not in demand by aged care providers,” agreed ACSA.

The extension of the Zero Real Interest Scheme also did little to improve the complex funding regime in place.

The Australian Medical Association added to these concerns. Given current funding arrangements, the AMA questioned whether the reform package would lead to an expansion of services in reality or an improvement in overall quality of services.

The Dietitians Association of Australia said the problem of achieving sustainable access to multidisciplinary teams also remained.

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