LASA CEO Sean Rooney has hit back at media reports today comparing the amount of money spent on food for prisoners and pets with aged care residents, saying the reporting is misleading and could cause unnecessary concern for older Australians and their families.

Mr Rooney said all residential aged care facilities in Australia are accredited by the Federal Government and nutrition is a key consideration in this process.

“During both unannounced visits and in re-accreditation visits, residential care facilities are assessed against these standards,” he said.

“Outcome 2.10 in the standards asks whether care recipients receive adequate nourishment and hydration and providers are required to demonstrate that catering services are provided in a way that ensures the meal preferences, nutritional needs and special requirements of residents are met.

“Non-compliances against the standards are noted and sanctions can be applied in response to non-compliances.”

Mr Rooney said it is well recognised that frail residents of aged care facilities are at high risk of weight loss and malnutrition can occur.

“Providers take this issue very seriously and the Malnutrition Screening Tool (MST) is employed in all facilities to give a clinical indication and weight band and treatment strategies for weight loss.

“Where malnutrition is identified, response strategies will be employed which may consist of nutritional supplements prescribed by a General Practitioner.

“In a nursing home setting many residents are very frail and supplements are an important part of their nutrition for a significant number.

“The cost of these supplements is not included in the average cost of food figure of $6.08 per day which is quoted in today’s reports. However, expenditure on dietary supplements has increased by 128% in the past year.

“In addition, it is extremely misleading to compare the food spend in an aged care facility with that of a prison. Around two thirds of aged care residents are women over the age of 80, who typically have a much lower calorie requirement, than the predominantly younger male, adult prison population.

“Conditions further contributing to limited dietary intake and use of supplements can include dementia, swallowing difficulties, poor dental health and chronic disease, depression and pain.

Furthermore, Mr Rooney said it is simply not true to say that aged care providers are making huge profits.

In 2017 the Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) reported that over 30% of all residential aged care providers reported a net loss in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

In its 2017 Report ACFA said “The full impact of the 1 July 2016 ACFI changes and the progressive implementation of the other ACFI and indexation changes, together with the recent national wage case decision which increased minimum wages by 3.3 per cent, may be expected to contribute to a decline in financial performance over time”.

In 2017 the Aged Care Financing Authority reported a $1.1b profit for the sector in 2015-16. However, detailed examination of these accounts reveals the actual surplus across the sector is in the order $647m or a 4% net profit margin. Further financial analysis conducted by Stewart Brown reveals returns on assets employed to be less than 2% per annum.

Mr Rooney acknowledged that no system is perfect and the industry is constantly looking for improvements, including in its food and catering services.

“The overwhelming majority of aged care providers in Australia are delivering excellent services, including food and catering, underpinned by dedicated and professional staff.

“Notwithstanding this, more can be done to enhance residents’ food experiences. In its pre-Budget submission, LASA has called for Commonwealth funds for a project to identify best-practice and innovative directions for food services in residential aged care.”

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