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Improvements in the quality of aged care have started

A masked carer looking after an Australian senior.

By April Murphy

Improvements in the quality of aged care in Australia are already in force as the main commission in the sector is being bolstered with additional functions and responsibilities to safeguard the market.

Last year, the Federal Government announced $496 million of additional funding after the Aged Care Royal Commission delivered a scathing interim report, which found Australia’s aged care system was “sad and shocking” and “diminishes Australia as a nation”.

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said while important Government reforms – including the development of a new funding model – would continue, waiting for the final recommendations from the Royal Commission was vital to ensure long-term sustainable change. 

“As the Government has said all along, with all matters of quality of care, investment in compliance and preventive actions will be undertaken as and when required,” Minister Colbeck said. “But it is important that the key long-term challenges investigated by the Royal Commission are explored thoroughly to ensure the development of a sturdy response and recommendations for future reform.”

In total, the Government will provide $623.9 million over four years from 2019-20 – with most of the funding already announced in its 25 November 2019 announcement: 10,000 extra home care packages; measures to reduce chemical restraint and the number of younger people in residential care; and dementia training.

The extra $87.3 million funding will mostly go towards eliminating Government red tape, including:

  • $13.6 million over two years to support the Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to respond to requests from the Royal Commission;
  • $11.4 million to increase the capability of the Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to effectively monitor, identify and respond to failures in care and financial risks in aged care (a post-Earle Haven initiative?); and
  • $1.9 million to strengthen prudential and financial risk management of aged care providers 

In addition, new restrictions for prescriptions of the drug Risperidone on January 1st,  mark a tangible step toward reducing the level of chemical restraint used in aged care. Minister Colbeck said restrictions for the drug Risperidone, would now require doctors to apply for additional approval if the medication is required for more than a 12-week period. 

“The Royal Commission identified an over-reliance on chemical restraint as a priority concern in aged care and the Government has taken this action among other measures to ensure senior Australians receive the care they expect and deserve,” Minister Colbeck said. Education resources for prescribers are also being developed to support the appropriate use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care, he said.

Minister Colbeck said the investments to date represented a significant down payment by the Government on the key areas identified as requiring action by the Commission.

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