This week the Nine Papers reported that the Federal Government was considering cutting back on funding allied health services that were deemed to be “not necessarily the most clinically appropriate”.
The reported plan was met with concern from allied health providers, including the Australian Physiotherapy Association, which argued the planned change would “ultimately lead to poorer quality of care for our most vulnerable people”.
However, in a conversation with Aged Care Insite APA national president Scott Willis said APA had since contacted Minister Hunt’s office and learned that the letter mentioned in the article was not representative of the revised funding plan.
“They did actually say that we'll be in the new funding models,” Willis told ACI.
“There’ll be provision for allied health services. They're very supportive of the important role physiotherapists and allied health play in aged care.
“We've had the Royal Commission, [we've had health reform process in place] and the recommendations are quite clear that they should provide allied health services that really support, restore and enable residents in aged care facilities and that add value to their care.”
The Royal Commission recommended that aged care residents “receive allied health care appropriate to each person’s need” and that “the funding assigned to the older person includes an amount to meet any identified need for allied health care”.
“There's a great concern for their quality of care and their safety within the aged care facilities,” Willis pointed out.
“I just don't think that our most vulnerable, our people that have worked all their lives, deserve to have less care than anyone else. They need to have the most appropriate and best quality care.”
Willis said physiotherapists help strengthen older people’s mobility and balance, improve their physical and cognitive wellbeing, and help them regain their independence.
The APA says 63 per cent of people in residential aged care receive physiotherapy, over half of whom see their physiotherapist four times a week.
“If you have a look at the type of residents that are in aged care, there are quite complex care needs, and I think physiotherapy is one profession that these complex patients can't do without,” said Willis.
“Allied health services – they can diagnose, they can treat, they can manage, they can prevent, they've got the medical background, they've been trained as specialists in this area.
“We go through specific training programs that really stipulate the outline and management and care of aged care people.”
With the official Federal Government plan yet to be announced, Willis said he feared what would happen if there was a significant cut in funding for allied health specialists.
“It will come back onto the nurses and also the carers to provide the services that they're not trained to provide, because there won't be any allied health services in aged care facilities.
“We can do a lot more than we're currently allowed to do because of the funding models, so the government needs to fund appropriate care, individualised, in the right setting by the appropriate person that can deliver that service at a quality rate and is backed up by evidence.
“We're just hoping that they follow through and make that happen,” Willis said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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