Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) have been under the threat of privatisation for years to no avail. Despite the many failed attempts, the government is again pushing forward towards a tendering process as early as next month.
The many failed attempts to privatise
In December, 2019, the federal government, which funds ACAT, tried to push through a tender to privatise. This was met with strong opposition from unions, workers, aged care advocates, medical peak bodies and even the NSW Minister for Health, who said: “it seems pre-emptive and unreasonable to be effectively privatising health aged-care services while the royal commission into aged care is still under way… not a lot of logic there”.
The government’s decision to withdraw the tender was announced on 28 February via a Council of Australian Governments Health Council (CHC) communique released following a meeting of state and territory health ministers, stating:
‘The Commonwealth has agreed to work with the States and Territories to have a consistent, uniform, efficient and integrated aged care assessment process that meets the needs of senior Australians and their families.
‘The Commonwealth has confirmed that it is not proceeding with the current tender process.’
The current situation
In May, this year, the Morrison Government again signaled its intention to privatise aged care assessment teams (ACAT) in its response to the aged care royal commission recommendations.
The decision to put the recruitment of the workforce out to tender is a clear misinterpretation of the commissioners’ advice to ‘replace the Aged Care Assessment Program and the Regional Assessment Services with one assessment process’.
Last week, during Senate estimates, Aged Care Services Minister, Richard Colbeck, reiterated the government’s plans to put the tender to market.
Under the proposed arrangements, organisations will be contracted to provide these government funded services. State public health providers will have an opportunity to win these contracts, however this approach will likely result in a significant (if not total) privatisation.
“These services are far too valuable and integrated with the health and care needs of older Australians to leave it to a ‘procurement approach’,” NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association General Secretary Brett Holmes said.
“Quality services need to be maintained, not reduced through the introduction of a profit motive”.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is campaigning against any privatisation of ACAT. Assessment services are expertly delivered by a skilled NSW public health workforce of registered nurses, social workers and others. Privatisation would jeopardise the jobs of hundreds of skilled practitioners.