Leading non-profit organisation, Uniting Communities, has expressed major concerns regarding funding cuts outlined for residential aged care by the Federal Government.

Some $1.2 billion in cuts to aged care funding have been announced by the Government in the 2016-17 budget through the aged care funding instrument (ACFI). These cuts are targeted at the most frail older people living in residential facilities – many of whom are no longer able to vote due to their physical and cognitive conditions.

‘We are calling for the Government to review their position on these changes,’ says Executive Manager Aged Care, Mel Ottaway. ‘What is needed is to undertake a true analysis of the cost of care within residential aged care, so that older people in residential aged care don’t suffer.’

Uniting Communities participated in financial modelling undertaken by Ansell Strategic, involving 501 homes across Australia and almost 39 000 residents, which indicated that the cuts will reduce funding to support older people in care by $6,655 or 11% per resident each year. In real terms, this could equate to a reduction of approximately $18 per resident per day. This will put additional pressures on services, potentially resulting in changes such as a reduction of direct care hours, a reduction in choice of meals or changes to skills mix providing the care.

As a result of the changes, there is potential for providers to carefully consider who gains access to services, disadvantaging individuals with complex health needs. There is also the risk of individual spending more time in the acute sector while careful screening processes are undertaken.

‘These funding cuts could disadvantage residents with very complex medication regimes – people with diseases such as Parkinson’s may require very individualised medication regimes, provided at various times to ensure ongoing symptom control,’ says Ms Ottaway.

‘There is also the risk that processes such as these will need to be delivered by care staff without the clinical training of Registered and Enrolled Nurses. It will also a potentially result in a reduction of pain management services currently offered by allied health providers, which could lead to an increased dependence on medications.’

Ms Ottaway says that the effects will also mean that residents will lose other vital services that can affect their social and general wellbeing.

‘Given that current services are provided on a one-to-one basis, residents will also lose vital social support,’ she says. ‘Other likely implications are reduced mobility, increased falls risks and general reduced quality of life – all of which could potentially result in increased hospitalisations and subsequent pressures on the healthcare system.’

Uniting Communities has provided residential aged care services for more than 70 years, from the opening of the Aldersgate residence at Felixstow in 1944 and, in 1968, the Murray Mudge facility in Glenelg. The organisation currently provides residential and community aged care services to over 1500 clients across the metropolitan area.

For comment
Mel Ottaway, Executive Manager, Aged Care – 0400 712 920
Simon Schrapel, Chief Executive – 0411 643 132