Industry welcomes prioritisation of aged care reform

Friday, 29 July, 2022

Industry welcomes prioritisation of aged care reform

The federal government has introduced The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022, which is expected to usher in a new funding model for residential aged care.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “The introduction of this legislation is the first step towards delivering new funding, more staff and better support to the sector, while improving transparency and accountability.”

The Bill introduces the requirement to have a qualified registered nurse to be onsite in every residential aged care home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring older Australians living in residential aged care receive immediate care when needed.

It also introduces measures to monitor the costs associated with aged care, placing greater responsibility on providers to be transparent and fair. This will see the publication of more information about providers’ operations including what they are spending money on.

The legislation places a cap on how much can be charged in administration and management fees.

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells said, “This Implementing Care Reform Bill will put nurses back into nursing homes; it will put a stop to high administration and management fees for home care, which means more dollars go to care and support; and it will improve integrity and accountability for residential aged care homes.

“24/7 registered nurses in residential aged care is a significant and much needed change to ensure high-quality care for older Australians. This will be supported by the initiatives we have in place to grow and boost the skills of aged care nurses,” Wells said.

Also introduced is the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022, which contains nine measures to implement urgent reforms to the aged care system and responds to 17 recommendations of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The Royal Commission Response Bill provides the legislative framework for the new AN-ACC funding model for residential aged care homes, which will replace the outdated Aged Care Funding Instrument in October 2022.

This framework is designed to offer more equitable funding, better matched to providers’ costs in delivering the care residents need. It also extends the functions of the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority, which will lead to better price-setting for aged care homes.

Other measures enshrine transparency and accountability of approved providers, and improve quality of care and safety for older Australians receiving aged care services.

This includes the Star Ratings System, which will see the Department of Health and Aged Care publish a comparison rating for all residential aged care services by the end of 2022; an extension of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to all in home care providers from 1 December 2022; and a new Code of Conduct for approved providers, their workforce and governing persons.

“Publishing Star Ratings for residential aged care homes will help people meaningfully compare services to make the right choice for themselves or their loved ones,” Wells said.

The Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) welcomed the tabling in the federal parliament of two new pieces of legislation which show the government recognises that fixing aged care is a key priority.

ACCPA Interim CEO Paul Sadler urged the parliament to quickly pass the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022, which among other things establishes an Independent Pricing Authority to set the price of aged care services and introduces a new residential care funding model called the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC).

“Most of the schedules in the Royal Commission Response Bill were scrutinised by a select committee in the previous parliament, so ACCPA is comfortable to support its passage quickly.

“We also support in principle the delivery of the government’s election commitments through the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 and look forward to the opportunity to scrutinise the implementation of these measures. For example, ACCPA is keen that we take account of staff shortages in how we introduce 24/7 RNs right across Australia, and the impact of home care pricing changes on consumers and service providers.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) and its members also welcomed the introduction of new legislation. “This is a truly historic day for ANMF members working in aged care,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.

“While implementation of these crucial reforms will take some time and will need to be phased in over the next two years, today marks the first real step towards actually fixing the aged care sector. After years of campaigning, ANMF members and aged care workers across the country will finally see results — the introduction of national safe staffing laws. The implementation of 24-hour RN presence and mandated minimum staff time in law acts on one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission and addresses the chronic understaffing in the aged care sector.

“These reforms, now to be enshrined in legislation, will ensure residents get the care they need and bring a halt to the neglect and suffering experienced by so many over the last decade.”

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