The Network has publicly expressed concern that funding changes, or cuts, of this magnitude will significantly reduce the funds available for services to meet complex health care needs such as wound and skin care, arthritis treatment, mobility support and end-of-life care for frail older people with conditions such as diabetes, dementia, heart disease, arthritis and bone fractures. This care is mostly delivered by registered and enrolled nurses, general practitioners, personal carers and a range of allied health professionals.
In order to gain a greater understanding of the impact of the changes, UnitingCare Australia, together with Aged and Community Services Association and Catholic Health Australia commissioned Ansell Strategic to conduct independent modelling. The modelling, covering more than 500 aged care providers, showed that the cuts will reduce the funding to meet the care needs of older people by an average of 11 per cent or $6,655 per resident per year.
The modelling, and our own analysis, demonstrate that the cuts will be far greater for residents with very high care needs: leading, in some cases, to funding reductions of up to $18,000 per resident per year. Further, the cuts will have a significantly heightened impact on rural and remote service providers which already face higher costs and lower returns.
The Network is deeply concerned that the cuts will significantly reduce the level of services able to be provided to frail older people in care, and thus reduce their quality of life. As the cuts are phased in for new residents and for those whose needs are reassessed, our Network also believes they will introduce an unacceptable level of inequity within aged care services, with residents with similar health care needs receiving vastly different levels of service.
Funding cuts of this magnitude will also have a significant flow-on impact on the broader health care system and most particularly on already stretched public hospitals. In particular, the Network believes the cuts may result in frail older people remaining in hospital longer than medically necessary as the availability of suitable aged care places is reduced and that end-of-life care may be limited to hospitals and hospices. This in turn would place greater pressure on the already severely strained public health system.
Of particular relevance to this Committee is our concern at the potentially negative impact of the cuts on the aged care workforce, particularly in the face of growing demand for care. In responding to the modelling survey, many service providers indicated the cuts would force them to consider reviewing admission policies for consumers with high needs or reducing staffing numbers and services.