Baptistcare would like to thank the Minister for responding to the outrage being expressed by the sector
I thank the Minister for responding to the outrage being expressed by the sector.
He needed to, as the groundswell of anger at the dismissive attitude of the Government towards the residents, families, staff and providers is continuting to grow; and the ongoing ill-informed assumptions about how our services are provided, how our businesses are run, and the lack of understanding about our motivations are misguided and unhelpful.
The demand for aged services is increasing exponentially; calls from distressed families seeking urgent, immediate high care that is of consistent high quality, in appropriate surroundings and which offers dignity and understanding, is on the increase.
There are insufficient beds to offer families and the demand for well trained and competent staff is going through the roof both in residential and community aged care.
As a provider that pitches its wages to be in the top five providers it means that we seek to be competitive in our remuneration, training, career development and opportunities for professional growth.
There is not general recognition of what high care means and it is not something that is discussed publicly.
For us, it means working with very frail, vulnerable people who have multiple, complex, illnesses, challenging health conditions including dementia, mental health illnesses, struggling with incontinence, immobilitiy and with a total dependence on care staff in many cases, and demonstrating major impacts on the functionality of individuals, whose lives are frequently in the end stages; who, nonetheless with their families expect to be cared for as they would in a hospital and a hotel and their own home, all at the same time.
We work closely with hospitals who frequently send residents back with increased needs and we are expected to be able to manage their escalating care needs on their return at a fraction of the hospital costs.
Costs of training on an ongoing basis, for the multi-disciplinary teams that we employ, from highly skilled RNs, ENs, carers, allied health professionals, chaplains, pastoral carers, consumer advocates, managers, catering and hotel services staff, laundry and cleaning, maintenance and the list continues - means a complex programme of continuous ecudation, professional development with both mandatory and ongoing education for all staff whether front-line or support staff and this is essential whether or not we receive training funding.
As a provider committed to high quality care, this sits alongside all the other essentials that must be included in our budgets to do with buildings, maintenance, utilities management, equipment and changes in care solutions.
The Minister refers to the increases in service funding that his government has provided. He forgets to add that these increases have been provided against a backdrop of long term, consistent underfunding to the sector which has long had a downward trend, and this is matched by consistent, long term increasing demand for residential aged care by increasing numbers of frail elderly with increasingly complex care needs; all of which has not allowed providers to get ahead. Instead they constantly stretch to keep up, juggling priorities alongside the increasing care demands.
The gap in any funding adjustments between 2012 and 2014 merely reinforces the level of disrespect which sits within government for the not-for-profit providers; used as we are to making do and providing care under increasingly challenging conditions.
More with less. I would also add, that 'modest changes' is not a description I would apply to the significant policy setting adjustments the Minister is making, with money coming out of direct care services and quality care systems and being redirected to wages with the hiatus in the funding for the year.
The implementation of the adjustments are controlling and invasively directive, far beyond what would normally happen in any other sector. The Minister's comparison of 70 % provider revenue being matched to 70% costs of wages is naive and simplistic and does not reflect the complexity of business planning, day-to-day service delivery, and care provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
The direct appeal to change the funding from direct care to paying increased wages for staff is unhelpful as many providers are already paying above award wages simply to remain competitive; and are already dealing with inflated wages in the West, and the inflated cost of living.
And this also needs to acknowledge that wages overall, have continued to fall behind across the sector as a whole, and this is solely to do with the traditional view of care workers and is a systemic gender issue that has not been addressed until very recently and even now, the solution offered will be stretched out over years for those workers, while still leaving those in Aged Care behind others services in the community sector.
However, providers are now being drawn into a debate about quality of care or increased wages. It cannot be an 'either-or' debate, but an 'and-and' and the options presented by the Government and the Minister do not provide for this outcome.
The need to look at the Living Longer Living Better Package as a whole is what has driven the level of outrage being expresed by providers, staff and residents and their families.
ACFI is the funnel through which this Government has driven its change process. It was the Government's choice to start at this point, with the money, using that as its lever to drive change.
The fact that we want to talk as well about quality of care and workforce highlights our commitment to a much wider issue of the future viability of aged care in Australia, rather than simply buying into the Government's commitment to rationalising care.
This is a quality of life and care debate for frail, elderly Australians into the future.
This debate is not only about ACFI but is also raising the implications concerning the future capacity to provide high quality services that are being driven and controlled more and more by the Department with little room left for innovation, ongoing improvements to quality, and the total commitment to person-centred care from the not-for-profit perspective.
And finally, we haven't yet talked about the issues of providers struggling in rural and regional Australia; the issues of workforce affected by the FIFO and the so called boom that is seriously compromising care; and the impact on communities and families for aged care; the lack of investment and non access to capital because of its high costs, the changes to accommodation bonds and charges, and the insurance proposed for bonds; the high cost of living with increases in utilities, and impact of the carbon tax; together make a mountain that providers across both residential and community aged care must now climb.
In this debate, I dont' know where to start, apart from saying, please listen and reverse your decisions!
As a CEO of a multi-service organisation, I also provide a range of other community services and for organisations like mine which serve the marginalised and people in rural and regional WA, the changes the Minister is making have implications far beyond that to which he is currently laying claim.
It seems the Minister is out of touch with the reality of aged care.
We're tired of picking up the Government's random pieces of jigsaw and having to make sense of it for our residents, clients, families and staff; and the funding cuts are real.
Having spent the last five months doing our budget for 2012-2013 I'm very clear on what is being taken out of the budget in the last few days of the financial year as I am now reforecasting and seeing what will be lost.
Our losses at this stage will be over $1.5 m and is currently climbing. Minister, please reverse the funding cuts and listen to the providers and families.
To read Minister's response to ACFI debate please click here
I am very interested to hear the views of others about the Governnent's aged care cut backs. I invite you to post a comment below.
Chief Executive Officer