Aged care system needs emergency first aid, say allied health professionals

Media release

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Australia’s peak body for allied health has given Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells a set of solutions to fix the broken aged care system.

At the centre of the proposals from Allied Health Professions Australia is a project called EMBRACE (Exploring Multidisciplinary Block-funded Residential Aged Care Evaluation).

‘We all know the terrible stories from the Royal Commission, and many of us have people we love who are living in or receiving aged care,’ says Dr Chris Atmore, AHPA’s Manager of Policy & Advocacy.

Atmore says that although there are important reforms being rolled out by the Labor Government, what is missing is an approach that appreciates older peoples’ human rights ‘not just to basic food, shelter and care, but also to wellbeing, and to be able to live the rest of their lives in as rich and full way as possible.’

She says the key to this is what the Royal Commissioners called ‘reablement’, which requires allied health services – like occupational therapy, speech pathology, physiotherapy, dietetics and psychology – to be provided to everyone who needs them, at a level that is assessed by specialists.

The Royal Commission recommended that reablement should be delivered by multidisciplinary teams, which should include allied health practitioners working alongside nurses and personal care workers.

Despite the recommendations, current proposals to reform both residential and home aged care do not set a minimum benchmark for allied service provision, nor allocate any targeted funding for this team approach.

‘We know many providers are financially strapped. Although the new funding model is an improvement, it will not cover rising costs, let alone pay for the system that is really needed – one that wraps around each older person.’

The EMBRACE project would be evaluated in trial sites for two years, but Atmore says we can’t wait until then.

‘So we’ve also come up with what is really system first aid, to make some quick changes and cobble together some existing ways to beef up allied health support and remove some barriers to providing more efficient services.’

She says allied health has been ‘the poor relation’ when it comes to Government support for workforce planning and integration into the broader healthcare system.

‘We’ll have to spend some money to get these proposals up and running, but it will end up reducing the financial burden on hospitals. More importantly, if we love our elderly relatives and friends, how much is this kind of “system hug” worth?’

Please also see AHPA’s policy statement ‘Proposed Allied Health Aged Care Solutions for Jobs Summit’ attached.