Australia’s aged care sector is a big winner in the 2021-22 federal budget, with the announcement of a five-year, $17.7 billion investment package – the largest investment in aged care in Australian history.
The increased funding is in response to the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which revealed a broken sector plagued with low staff levels, patient neglect, and a lack of care, dignity, and transparency.
The federal budget also reinforced the government’s commitment to continue its support of access to Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioner, nursing, midwifery, allied health, allied mental health and specialist services.
Mental health has also emerged as a funding priority, along with rural health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
“We are pleased to see the government is continuing to support telehealth via Medicare subsidies, as well as rural and remote health, and of course, reform in the aged care sector,”
said Visionflex CEO and co-founder, Mr Mike Harman.
“We believe that telehealth will emerge as an important tool in the government’s future vision for both rural health, mental health, Indigenous health, and the aged care sector. Telehealth has the ability to help provide Australians with the primary care and allied health services they require and deserve.”
A five-year, five-pillar aged care reform plan
The budget’s funding package will support the government’s “five year – five pillar aged care reform plan” including:
1. Home care reform $7.5 billion
To fund an additional 80,000 Home Care Packages and improve home support and care based on assessed needs.
2. Residential aged care services and sustainability $7.8 billion
Improving service suitability that ensures individual care needs and preferences are met, including $3.9 billion to provide a mandated 200 minutes per day of front-line care for each resident, with 40 minutes delivered by registered nurses; and $3.2 billion to support aged care providers to deliver better care and services (including food) via a government-funded Basic Daily Fee Supplement of $10 per resident, per day.
3. Residential aged care quality and safety $942 million
$365.7 million to improve access to primary care and GP-led care, including the transition of senior Australians between aged care and healthcare settings and improved medication management.
4. Workforce $652.1 million
Growing a bigger, more highly skilled, caring, compassionate, and values-based workforce.
5. Governance $698.3 million
New legislation and stronger governance, including $630.2 million to improve aged care access in regional, rural, and remote areas including those with First Nations backgrounds and special needs groups. A new Aged Care Act will be drafted by mid-2023.
Other federal budget highlights include:
- Strengthening primary care $1.8 billion – including $71.9 million to improve access to after-hours care; $301.8 million investment in digital health to support My Health Record.
- A national mental health and suicide prevention plan $2.3 billion – including $98.1 million to strengthen access to and connection between mental health services via digital means; and $158.6 million for aftercare services for people following a suicide attempt.
- A stronger rural health strategy $123 million – including $65.8 million to continue the Rural Bulk Billing Incentive that supports the delivery of quality health services to all Australians, no matter where they live; $12.4 million for the John Flynn Placement Program that provides 300 undergraduate medical students with the opportunity to experience clinical practice and lifestyle in rural and remote locations; and $9.6 million to expand the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway, which aims to improve health outcomes for rural and remote Australians through increasing access to a highly skilled allied health workforce and enhancing multi-disciplinary care.
- Prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health $4.1 billion over four years – including $22.6 million for Practice Incentive Payments for Indigenous health initiatives; and $31.1 million for continued investment in rheumatic fever strategy and elimination of trachoma.