Home | COVID-19 | ‘Still no sign’: Aged care homes still waiting for COVID-19 reimbursement
Providers are left wondering when COVID reimbursements will flow in, amid a sector-wide financial crisis.

‘Still no sign’: Aged care homes still waiting for COVID-19 reimbursement

Aged care homes are being pushed further into debt as they are left guessing when an estimated half a billion dollars of emergency Covid expenses will be reimbursed.

Federal Government introduced Covid support grants to assist aged-care providers in controlling outbreaks within their facilities, protect weaker residents and their families, and restrain transmission of Covid with the local community.

One of Australia’s largest providers, Calvary Health Care, runs 91 aged care homes, communities, and services nationwide. However, the provider received a $5 million payout to claims worth around $55 million.

Chief of Aged and Community Care Providers Association Tom Symondson said the delays are a “perfect storm” for aged care facilities already running at a loss.

“Unfortunately, it’s taking a very long time for those payments to come through,” Mr Symondson told Aged Care Insite.

“We understand there is a process, and the Government has to do its due diligence, but ultimately that money should be flowing much faster.”

“Given the current financial environment, with a majority of providers losing money, this is incredibly serious for those who are owed money.”

Over the past two years, 76 aged care facilities have closed their doors. The beginning of July saw three aged care homes close, displacing 70 residents.

The grants were introduced during the pandemic's peak and allowed aged care providers to claim back additional expenses accumulated during the outbreaks.

The Department of Health and Aged Care reported a total of 11,383 applications. 

Forty-eight per cent of the applications had been finalised, with more than $432 million being paid out. 

The remaining 6,018 claims are outstanding – accumulating an estimated half a billion dollars.  

A spokesperson for Aged Care Minister Anika Wells told ABC that claims were subject to “rigorous assessment” and extra staff were being put on to streamline the process for grants under $40,000.

Providers known to be in “significant financial distress” were prioritised.

Estia Health released an ASX statement in May that revealed outstanding Covid grant claims amassed to $21 million – $8.8 million dated back from the 2021/22 financial year.

Delays in giving the reimbursements were hard to understand for Catholic Health Australia’s chief of aged care, Jason Kara. 

Mr Kara said it was the government's bureaucracy that held the payments, and more could be done efficiently and collaboratively.

“Bureaucracy has placed numerous barriers to reimbursing providers for their expenditure, including insisting on separate claims for each home and outbreak and multiple agencies asking about the same claim,” he said.

“The system has almost been set up to fail, with thousands of dollars being held up by government querying about a $100 test expenditure.”

“We’ve now entered the third financial year of the Covid grants payment scheme, and the government still has not learnt the lessons of the pandemic and improving the system.”

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