Australia’s voice of aged care, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), today called for Federal and State governments to work collaboratively and constructively with the age services industry in the interests of older Australians.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said 2018 must be a year of action in the aged care industry.

“The needs of the growing numbers of older Australians, combined with a system experiencing significant change, cannot be ignored,” Mr Rooney said.

“Fundamental issues relating to the four key areas of quality of services, access to services, funding of services, and delivery of services, must be resolved.”

Mr Rooney said the pathway to address these issues, and to ensure our aged care system provides accessible, affordable, quality care and services for older Australians, is by working together.

“It is not helpful when some stakeholders selectively use data that does not take account of the complexities involved with elder care or circumstances that cause an increase in emergency department admissions,” Mr Rooney said.

“Aged care facilities are not hospitals. When older Australians require medical attention for complex health needs they will be transferred to a hospital for treatment.

“The fact is that the Australian population is ageing and people are entering residential aged care with increasingly complex care needs.

“Given the increasing numbers of older Australians requiring residential aged care, combined with their advanced age and higher care needs, it is not surprising to see increases in hospital transfers.”

Mr Rooney said over the past year, we have also seen severe influenza (flu) and gastroenteritis (gastro) outbreaks across the east coast of Australia with reported cases of infection in aged care homes.

“Older Australians can be particularly vulnerable to these types of illness. They can be life- threatening in some circumstances. If a resident requires urgent medical treatment they will be transferred to a hospital to receive the medical care that they need.

Mr Rooney said he agreed with Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles that aged care requires more funding.

“Figures released by industry analyst StewartBrown last week showed that over 40% of residential aged care providers are reportinga financial loss, with heightened concerns for the performance of those operating in regional areas,” Mr Rooney said.

“We have been advising the Federal Government for the past year of the impact on residential care providers of the combination of rising operating costs and reducing revenues from government.

“Consumers and providers need assurance and confidence in the aged care system and ensuring financial viability is fundamental to this.

“Our industry needs urgent funding relief in the 2018/19 Budget while the longer term work on new funding arrangements is being undertaken.”

Mr Rooney said quality and standards in aged care are intrinsically linked to the industry’s workforce.

“Quality of care is not as simple as the number of staff on duty or arbitrary staffing ratios,” Mr Rooney said.

“The basis for deciding on staffing levels and their skills mix needs to be driven by the actual care needs of individual residents.

“Flexibility to adjust the staffing mix as the profile of an aged care facility’s residents change is a very important consideration, as is the adaptability to move to new models of care driven by innovation and new technology.”

Mr Rooney said Australia’s aged care quality system is resulting in the overwhelming majority of Australians in aged care receiving high-quality care that meets the most stringent national standards.

“That said, the aged care sector is also one that is committed to continuous improvement,” Mr Rooney said.

“I call on the State and Federal Ministers to work collaboratively with the industry and make 2018 a year of action in aged care. Older Australians deserve nothing less.”

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