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AMA ramps up its aged care advocacy

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BY DR ANDREW MULCAHY, CHAIR, AMA’S MEDICAL PRACTICE COMMITTEE

It only takes a skim of the media headlines to know that the aged care system is failing older people. Many reported cases of poor quality care are a result of delayed medical care and neglect, and AMA members are deeply concerned for their older patients. There have been multiple inquiries and reviews into the system in the past couple of years. Government are well aware of the issues and, while there was a $5 billion funding increase in the aged care 2018-19 budget, more urgently needs to be done.

The AMA is responding to its members’ concerns by ramping up its aged care advocacy. In November 2017, the Medical Practice Committee (MPC) conducted a survey on AMA member experiences and perceptions of aged care to inform future AMA policy. In April 2018, a new Position Statement, Resourcing aged care was released. This Position Statement focuses on workforce and funding measures required for a good quality aged care system, and draws from the learnings of the aged care survey.

Aged care calls for adequate resourcing to ensure doctors are supported to deliver medical care to their older patients. One such measure includes appropriate remuneration to cover the opportunity cost of leaving a surgery to visit patients in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs). The AMA also advocated for this policy change at the MBS Reviews’ General Practice and Primary Care Clinical Committee (GPPCCC). Dr Richard Kidd (Chair, Council of General Practice) and AMA Federal Secretariat called for increased MBS rebates for GP RACF attendances, telehealth consultation items for GPs, and for the Practice Incentive Program (PIP) Aged Care Access Incentive (ACAI) to remain.

MPC, with input from the Council of General Practice, has lodged six aged care submissions this year alone. These include:

  • Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce – The Aged Care Workforce Strategy;
  • Australian Aged Care Quality Agency – Draft Standards Guidance (for the new Aged Care Quality Standards);
  • House of Representatives Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport – Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia;
  • Medical Services Advisory Committee – New mobile imaging services for residential aged care facilities;
  • Aged Care Financing Authority – Respite Care; and
  • Department of Health – Specialist Dementia Care Units.

In addition to the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport for the Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia submission, Dr Tony Bartone and Dr Kidd gave evidence at a public hearing in May. Dr Bartone and Dr Kidd highlighted that AMA members have major concerns that the current aged care system is failing older people, and called for more appropriately trained aged care staff, especially registered nurses, in RACFs. Dr Bartone and Dr Kidd also highlighted that doctors need to be recognised and supported as a crucial part of the aged care workforce to improve medical access, care and outcomes for residents.

In addition to the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce submission, Dr Bartone recently attended both Aged Care Workforce Taskforce Summits. The summits are aimed at engaging stakeholders in developing a strategy for ensuring aged care workforce growth to meet older people’s needs. Dr Bartone highlighted that the current aged care workforce does not have the capacity, capability and connectedness to adequately meet the needs of older people.

MPC aged care advocacy efforts were also reflected in several Budget announcements, including:

  • the establishment of an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission ($nil);
  • investment in rural aged care ($40million);
  • improvements to My Aged Care website access ($61.7million) and faster Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessments ($14.8million);
  • improved access to specialist palliative care services in RACFs ($32.8million);
  • a new mental health service for older people living in RACFs ($82.5million); and
  • 14,000 additional home care packages (plus 6000 additional packages as announced in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook) ($1.6billion).

However, more needs to be done to ensure older people receive quality care. 20,000 additional home care packages makes a small dent in the 104,602 people currently on the waiting list. The Productivity Commission stated in 2011 that the aged care workforce must quadruple by 2050 to meet demand, but there was no mention of a workforce strategy in the budget. MPC is waiting with bated breath for the Aged Care Workforce Strategy to complete its work (by the end of June 2018).

MPC will continue advocating for a better quality aged care system. 2018 will see the introduction of four additional aged care Position Statements, covering topics such as the health of older people, palliative care, clinical care, and innovation in aged care. So watch this space.

AMA aged care Position Statements and submissions can be accessed through: advocacy/aged-care.

 

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