Home | Industry & Reform | Budget roundup: ‘lost opportunities’ in patient outcomes, home care still waiting

Budget roundup: ‘lost opportunities’ in patient outcomes, home care still waiting

The government celebrated a $7.1 billion surplus in its pre-election budget but nurses were less than cheery.

While the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) said promises to work on a national youth mental health strategy and assurances for aged care were highlighted, the Budget largely missed out on ensuring holistic care as provided by the nursing profession in the various sectors.

The college said there were lost opportunities in the Budget, particularly in the distribution of additional funding to improve patient outcomes across the country.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said the Budget has failed to direct health funding to those areas where it is urgently needed to "alleviate the critical pressures being felt across the acute health system".

ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said: "Crucially, there is no genuine support to assist the nursing and midwifery workforce working in this system.

“Most critically of all there is no funding, no plan and no guarantee that this Budget will lead to improvements in quality and safety in aged care, and there is definitely no support for the aged care workforce which is currently under enormous pressure, just managing to hold the system together.”

ACN chief executive Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward echoed the point that the modest measures in the Budget fail to appreciate the growing crisis in aged care.

Home care comes up short

Leading Aged Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said many aged care providers and the older Australians they serve will be rightly disappointed by the Budget. While previously announced home care packages were reaffirmed, it failed to add any new funds.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said: “The counsel assisting the royal commission described the home care waitlist as ‘cruel, unfair, disrespectful and discriminatory against older Australians' and we’d agree.

“The government’s own department has told the royal commission it will only cost $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year to ensure older Australians wait no more than 3 months for the assessed level of care they need.

“The lack of investment in this Budget sends a troubling signal to the 125,000 older Australians still waiting for home care across the country.”

Among the welcome aged care announcements were 2.6 million to provide additional support for the implementation of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy and $5.9 billion over two years from 2020–21 to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) funding arrangements.

While Aged & Community Services Australia said these two measures are important, they need to be followed up with much more coordinated action from the whole of government.

“The government has responded to increased scrutiny of aged care with a number of compliance and regulatory initiatives, but the hard reality is that so far we’ve really only seen stop-gaps,” chief executive Patricia Sparrow said.

Healthcare spending lacks vision

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) chief executive Alison Verhoeven said commonwealth investment in healthcare is welcome but added a “cash splash without long-term vision ensures that entrenched problems stay entrenched”.

“Tonight’s Budget once again rewards service volume and attendant rising costs when we need to shift the whole system to value-based healthcare – that is, better outcomes for patients relative to costs.

“The Commonwealth Government has got some double bang for its buck as it re-announces previous promises as new Budget 2019 commitments.

“Nevertheless AHHA welcomes access to cheaper medicines, specifically the re-announcement of new drugs to be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for breast cancer and skin cancer patients. Nearly $500 million for cancer research in Victoria is also welcome.”

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