Home | Industry+Policy | Talks begin on $1.1 billion from workforce supplement

Talks begin on $1.1 billion from workforce supplement

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Coalition meets with stakeholders to determine fate of funding package. 

The Coalition has begun consultations with the sector on the best way to redistribute $1.1 billion in funding from the scrapped workforce supplement, keeping a commitment it made last year.

Late last year, the Coalition said the funds would be returned to a general pool of resources until a solution was found to redistribute the funds in a “better targeted” and more “flexible way”.

Roundtable talks began with key stakeholders and organisations in Canberra in early February; attendees have confirmed with Aged Care Insite they expect further discussions in coming weeks.

Peter Shergold, head of the Aged Care Reform Implementation Council, led early February’s roundtable talks. He said they brought together providers and consumer and industry representatives. The federal minister and assistant minister for social services, Kevin Andrews and Mitch Fifield, respectively, joined the group at the end of the day, for a presentation on the main points.

It is expected that the ministers will present final strategies to Cabinet, before any decisions are made on the redistribution of the funds.

Insiders told Aged Care Insite there was concern that publicly funded aged-care bodies might be caught in the new government’s belt-tightening.

Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Glenn Rees described the roundtable as a “positive and frank discussion”. He said all parties agreed workforce issues and wage parity were a priority; however, there was disagreement on how that objective should be delivered.

Providers, including representatives from LASA and Catholic Health Australia, proposed the additional funding be incorporated into the existing CAP mechanism. The industry, meanwhile, strongly represented by the ANMF and United Voice, argued that the money should be returned to workers but also said a mechanism to ensure “transparency and accountability” was necessary.

ANMF acting federal secretary Yvonne Chaperon confirmed the union’s stance.

“We believe the money should be delivered by way of an industrial agreement, but they have made clear that’s not going to happen,” she said. “We don’t support the $1.1 billion going into the [aged care funding instrument] or the CAP because … with previous governments, where money has been allocated to close the wages gap, that money has never reached wages.”

Chaperon also does not agree with the Coalition’s view that although wages are an important part of workforce development, government should not be in the business of prescribing them.

“I think it is their business because they fund the sector, and when they are contemplating funding the sector they should be contemplating wages,” Chaperon said.

Rees, who along with Council of the Aged Australia CEO Ian Yates represents consumers, agreed with the ANMF that the mechanism used to redistribute funds needs to be accountable.

“You just can’t have money with no strings attached,” he told Aged Care Insite. He has also said the options providers brought forward did not achieve a high level of accountability or transparency.

Rees also confirmed there was a strong argument from the consumer organisations that some of the money should go to ensuring that community care and home care packages were properly indexed and cost adjusted, following no adjustment in the last five years.

Another opinion the roundtable achieved general consensus on was the need to take a serious look at the money dedicated to training and education in aged care, in line with the Productivity Commission’s report. Rees believed a review of the funding process for aged care training and education would be part of anything that comes from the discussions.

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One comment

  1. The lynchpin of hetlahcare is the family doctor. They are not now paid to spend the time doing thorough histories and physicals. They are paid on a fee for service basis, their days chopped into 10 minute segments during which they are paid to discuss one problem per visit. Have you noticed signs in your doctor’s office advising that when you book your appointment you need to mention whether you have more than one problem to discuss, as more time or more visits will have to be booked. Our health funding system does not recognize the complexity of the whole person. As a result GPs can’t afford to do proper assessments and so they order more lab tests and do more referrals to specialists. They also prescribe more medications. All of this is expensive and not good medicine. The formula for remuneration of GPs versus specialists must be examined and changed. This will involve the government health ministries working with the professional medical associations, who also share in the blame for why specialists are overpaid and GPs are underpaid.Canada in fact rates quite poorly in many of the measures of health outcomes vs health expenditures as compared to other developed countries. We’ve known this for a long time. Remember the Romanow report? We spend money on studies but we do not act on them.Another major area that needs reform is the area of pharmaceutical costs. Governments have to stand up to the big pharmaceutical companies. Why do the same drugs cost less in Europe? The provinces could band together and buy drugs at lower cost. Meanwhile in some provinces (eg BC) independent trials of new medications are being muzzled. BC has brought in a Fair Pharmacare program, though, and that is something not all provinces have done. This program prevents catastrophic drug expenses by setting a maximum that the patient pays, based on income. And BC has been pro-active about supporting generic drug use.I do applaud your focus on preventive care but there is much more that’s wrong with our system. Our universal system only covers doctor fees and hospitalization. Eye care, hearing, residential care of the elderly, physiotherapy, dentistry, and in some provinces drugs are not covered.And you mention mental health care. It was a big mistake to close all the residential facilities years ago. It will be very expensive to open new ones. But we will have to.