What can health and aged care expect as a result of federal Budget 2018-19? While some investment into health was welcomed, the ANMF was deeply disappointed safe staffing in residential aged care was ignored. Read ANMJ’s Budget summary below.
STAFFING CRISIS IN AGED CARE IGNORED
The ANMF has expressed disappointment the federal government has failed to address the urgent need for safe staffing in residential aged care in its latest Budget.
“Our members are pleased the government has allocated funding into additional home care packages and palliative care services, but they know that this will do nothing to ensure safe and timely care for elderly Australians already in residential aged care and those who will need it soon,” ANMF A/Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.
The Budget delivered nothing to alleviate the chronic understaffing in the aged care sector, which has led to dangerous workloads for nurses and carers, Ms Butler said.
“We know that from 2003 to 2016, there’s been a 13% reduction in qualified nursing staff working in aged care. Over the same period, there’s been a 400% increase in preventable deaths in residential aged care. Yet the Government is still not prepared to guarantee safe staffing levels in residential aged care.”
The only way to guarantee safe staffing levels is to tie government funding to the provision of care, Ms Butler said. “And the best way to achieve this is through mandated minimum staff ratios.”
AGED CARE FUNDING LONG OVERDUE AND NOT ENOUGH
The aged care sector has cautiously welcomed the $5 billion investment into aged care, largely for in-home care. The $1.6 billion funding towards 14,000 high-level home care packages to enable older Australians to stay at home has been lauded as long overdue.
More than 104,000 people were on the waiting list for home care packages to meet their needs, with 78% needing higher Level 3 and 4 packages, according to latest government figures.
“It’s simply unacceptable that waiting lists have blown out to this point, with thousands and thousands of people waiting more than a year for the care services they need to remain in their home,” ANMF A/Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.
The federal opposition described the aged care package as a “pathetic insult to older Australians” which did nothing to address the aged care crisis.
Funding just 14,000 new in-home aged care packages over four years was a “cruel hoax”, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health Julie Collins said. “Made even worse by the fact that funding is coming from within the existing aged care budget to pay for it.”
National Seniors Australia had called for double the number of Level 3 and 4 home care packages, to allow people to stay in their own homes and out of residential aged care. “We know that if people can remain in their own homes, they have better health outcomes and it is more cost efficient, so it’s hard to understand why more resources haven’t been allocated to home care,” Chief Advocate Mr Ian Henschke said.
“Further work is needed to address the support needed for the remaining tens of thousands of Australians who will remain on the waiting list,” Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said.
NURSING INITIATIVES TO IMPROVE ACCESS
A range of nursing initiatives announced in the federal Budget aiming to help improve access to healthcare for many Australians have been welcomed by nursing and health stakeholders.
A $550 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy will provide for more than 3,000 nurses in rural, regional and remote areas.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, low income families, those who live outside our major metropolitan cities, or people who are new to Australia, do not always have the same access to best practice care that many of us take for granted,” Australian College of Nursing Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said.
“By investing in and supporting our nursing workforce, the Australian community can feel confident that nurses will be available to provide care now and into the future.”
Funding for enhancing the role of nurse practitioners in frontline service delivery to improve patient care and keep pace with increasing demand for services was also announced.
Australian College of Nurse Practitioners CEO Mark Monaghan said this would raise greater public awareness of the role and skills of NPs.
“This will assist in raising the profile of NPs and will help attract more nurses to undertake extra study to become a NP.”
“Among a range of measures in rural health, the government will strengthen the role of nurses in primary healthcare, including a greater awareness of the role and skills of nurse practitioners, who are integral to the delivery of specialist palliative care,” Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan said.
The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) urged for longer-term primary healthcare reforms to remain on the radar.
The CHF remains concerned about people’s ability to access the care they need due to expense, CEO Leanne Wells said. “While the additional funding for hospitals, Medicare, aged care and medicines is welcome, there is a strong case for greater emphasis on primary healthcare that focuses on local health services to respond to local need for integrated care, particularly for chronic illness.”
FUNDING INJECTION FOR MENTAL HEALTH
The mental health sector has welcomed substantial investment to improve mental healthcare services for vulnerable Australians in this year’s federal budget.
The federal government will invest $338 million in the sector over the next four years across a range of initiatives, including suicide prevention and ensuring older Australians in residential care receive adequate mental health support.
The budget included $20 million in funding to The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) to co-design a pilot service for people living in the community aged over 75 at high risk of experiencing mental health issues due to social isolation and loneliness.
“We are very pleased the Commonwealth Government has recognised that substantial action needs to be taken to improve the mental health and wellbeing of older members of the community,” ACMHN chief executive Kim Ryan said.
The National Mental Health Commission said its annual increase in funding would strengthen its objective to identify the strengths and weaknesses across mental health services and provide advice to government and the community.
“This includes monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan and aspects of the National Disability Insurance Scheme relating to psychosocial disability,” the Commission’s CEO, Dr Peggy Brown said.
Mental Health Australia described the funding focus on suicide prevention, older Australians and mental health research as a positive step toward an improved system that delivers better care.
“These budget measures are welcome, but this doesn’t mean we won’t stop working tirelessly to seek further investment next year, and every year that follows, until the current gaps in the mental health system are finally closed,” Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan said.
To read more articles from ANMJ, view the full journal online at issuu.com/australiannursingfederation/docs/anmj_june_2018_issuu