Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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Health Matters

Pre-election push by peak body for a WA Minister for Ageing

source Aged and Community Services WA

As the State election campaign ramps up, the leading representative body for the not-for-profit aged and community care sector in Western Australia is calling on the newly elected government to appoint a Minister for Ageing to prioritise aged care issues.

Aged and Community Services WA (ACSWA) has developed a briefing paper outlining the inadequacies of the current aged care system, impacted by the State’s size, remoteness and unique circumstances, and is calling for a dedicated and well-resourced Ministerial appointment to assist in placing the sector on a sustainable footing.

“With WA’s broad and immediate demographic challenges it is imperative that our future State Government gives greater priority and attention to aged care in this State,” says Stephen Kobelke, CEO of ACSWA.

“This would be better accomplished by having aged care elevated to a senior cabinet position, just as in other States, to facilitate the policy development needed to meet the needs of older Western Australians throughout metro, rural and remote WA,” he says.

The peak body’s briefing paper also outlines the particular challenges being faced by WA’s not-for-profit aged and community care providers, the majority of whom have been unable to make a business case for investment in aged care in recent years, leading to unprecedented stagnation in the development of aged care services within the State.

The organisation points to figures recorded between 2007 and 2012, during which only 39% of the available residential aged care beds were taken up by aged care providers in WA, and record numbers were handed back to the Commonwealth because service providers could no longer make a business case for further expansion.

Significantly, WA was also the first State in history to under-subscribe bed licenses five years ago, a trend that has continued to the point where now 3,500 bed licenses (which equate to beds in aged care homes for older West Australians) have not been taken up - the equivalent to five Fiona Stanley hospitals.

Furthermore, there has also been a significant over-subscription in WA for in-home care packages, which enable people to remain living relatively independently at home.  In 2012, from an allocation of only 279 in-home care places available, Western Australia’s applications for these places numbered 2,263.  The position has deteriorated further in 2013 with just 80 Home Care packages being allocated for the whole State, from a total of 5835 across Australia.

“These shortfalls are not sustainable, our system is in crisis and these issues have severe ramifications for the WA health system as increasing numbers of older people with complex care needs are taking up public hospital beds while they await access to residential or home care," adds Mr Kobelke.

“Our aged care system has come to a stand-still through Federal Government inaction and older Western Australians must be acknowledged as a priority by the next WA Government, which must take urgent action to ensure the provision of quality aged and community care services to current and future generations.

The ACSWA briefing paper also covers workforce constraints, Meals on Wheels subsidies and provision, the challenges of regional, rural and remote aged care provision, as well as investment in residential aged care and home care as crucial priority areas for the future of WA's aged and community care sector.

The #wa2013vote website will be kept online so politicians promises and statements can be checked until the end of next WA election in 2017, and after.