The below article “Uncap the care and let elderly stay put” was published in The Advertiser on 5 October 2020.

Uncap the care and let elderly stay put

David Panter, Chief Executive of ECH

IT has taken the COVID pandemic to enable telehealth to be recognised as a key part of a modern health care system.

This required both a willingness of health professionals to accept this approach and, critically, the Federal Government to amend payment regimes for those professionals.

Once telehealth was available, consumers have responded positively and we are unlikely to ever return to the same volume of face-to-face consultations that we have seen in the past.

This is part of a revolution in the way in which health and social care is being delivered across the developed world, one in which Australia is flagging compared with many OECD countries.

This can also be seen in the way health funds are increasingly advertising home treatment for conditions traditionally treated in a hospital.

The limiting step for this is the attitude of some health professionals, but more critically, the Federal Government payment regimes, which recognise the hospital and not the home as the suitable venue for such care.

It should come as no surprise that this same issue is playing out in the context of providing support and services to older Australians.

We know from survey after survey that the majority of us, as we age, want to continue to live at home and indeed die at home. This is certainly possible given the growing ability of home care providers to support complex care, with technology.

Yet this is not reflected in the Government’s aged care policy and funding regimes. More than 100,000 older Australians are on the national waiting list for a home care
package. They will wait on average up to 18 months to get the support they need.

In contrast, occupancy of residential care facilities, even before COVID, had fallen to record lows.

Residential care is still an essential part of our age care system. Our experience at ECH shows that many of the very frail elderly could continue to live, and die, at home if the right care was available. For some, this is not what they want, and they do wish to be in residential care.

The residential care sector needs the support of Government to adapt to the changing needs of its consumers.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care has already called on government to “uncap” home care packages and remove the waiting list.

This approach is supported by the Council on the Ageing.

In the budget, the Federal Government could correct the imbalance by funding sufficient home care packages to eliminate the waiting list.

Whether it does so will be an indication of how committed it is to older Australians.

Click here to read the full article: Uncap the care and let elderly stay put

Posted: October 5, 2020