ACAT privatisation digs a deeper hole for aged care
Aged Care Nurse Jocelyn Hoffman writes about what the proposed privatisation of Aged Care Assessment Teams will mean for the sector.
The federal government made a quiet announcement last December that it will privatise the Aged Care Assessment Teams from April 2021.
The ACATs are teams of registered nurses, geriatricians and allied health professionals who work at public hospitals to assess the level of care required by our elderly Australians. This is an independent organisation that provides an invaluable service to our older community. They assess their complex care needs and assist them and their carers to access appropriate levels of support, either at home or in a residential aged care home.
How can the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and our Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck allow the privatisation to go ahead while the Aged Care Royal Commission is yet to submit its recommendations in November this year?
Privatisation and deregulation in the Aged Care sector has led to chronic understaffing. The Royal Commission has exposed the Aged Care sector as a “shocking tale of neglect!”
Our elderly have paid an expensive price in this harrowing debacle.
I fear that the privatisation of the Aged Care Assessment Teams will lead down the same pathway.
Will lucrative companies that run nursing homes be in charge of the assessments of patients? Will the patients be sent to the companies’ own residential aged care facilities or in their homes? If at home, will the care be provided by their own “agencies”? Will the assessors be trained professionals or will the staffing be downgraded? A lack of assessors will lead to long waiting times in hospitals. Will there be transparency and financial accountability?
The Tax Justice Network has exposed (the tax avoidance of) the six largest for-profit companies in Australia, namely Bupa, Opal, Regis, Estia, Japara and Allity, who received over $2.17 billion annually in government subsidies for aged care services and we are yet to see the information on funding and staffing ratios in the aged care sector.
Interestingly, One Nation and the federal government blocked the Aged Care Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 last December. This bill, moved by the Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff, would have required residential aged care providers to give annual financial statements – the actual costs spent on food, staffing and other costs spent on delivering care – to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, who would then make them public.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety revealed that in 2018, 16,000 older Australians died waiting for a Home Care Package and 13,000 people were placed into aged care facilities while waiting for a package they never received.
We have been told incessantly by this government that privatisation and the free market system will thrive on an assumption of consumer choice. Once the ACAT has been privatised, there will be no such thing as “consumer choice”. Sadly, decisions about their care will not be determined by them-selves or by their loved ones, but by profit-seeking corporations.
What kind of society have we become?