Morrison wants private sector to assess elderly care
Despite growing opposition, the Morrison government appears determined to privatise Aged Care Assessment Teams that gauge the level of care required by elderly Australians.
The Morrison government is attempting to privatise the work of Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) from April 2021, with tenders to be called this year.
This latest privatisation move comes before the Royal Commission into Aged Care has had a chance to deliver its final recommendations this year.
Health and aged care ministers from three states – including Liberal-led NSW – have voiced concerns about ACAT privatisation and the Royal Commission has rebuked the Morrison government over the issue.
ACATs work in public health services to help elderly people access appropriate levels of support, either at home, hospitals or nursing homes.
ACATs are made up of registered nurses, geriatricians, community dementia nurses who are also ACAT assessors, and allied health professionals.
They are employed by state health ministries with federal government funding.
ACAT clinicians work closely with hospitals, geriatricians, GPs and Area Health hospital prevention programs.
The proposed privatisation is an extension of the Abbott government’s 2014 part-privatisation of Regional Assessment Services, which assess people seeking home care packages.
Now, half of all Regional Assessment Services belong to NSW Health and work with ACAT.
NSWNMA member Lynne Williamson is one of about 30 RNs who work at Hunter ACAT in Newcastle.
She fears privatisation would have negative impacts on patients and clients needing approvals to access services.
“Currently, ACATs are independent of service providers and our assessments are purely based on the clinical needs of the client,” she said.
“How do you replicate that level of independent expertise in a new, privatised service?”
Lynne said ACAT was already under pressure from providers to approve higher level home care packages (HCPs) when case management of the existing package would suffice.
“HCPs are worth up to $50,000 per person per year and providers can keep up to 60 per cent in service fees and profits,” she said.
“Package funds are being used for whitegoods, swimming pool and home repairs, gym costs and ironing instead of meeting direct care needs.”
She said non-government providers currently funded to provide only a single service are reluctant to encourage clients to use other services that have funding for the full suite of available govern-ment programs.
“Instead, they pressure ACAT for higher level HCPs and an immediate increase in HCP provision, a strategy that would increase their profits.
“It would be better to streamline the available programs, so that HCP providers currently funded to provide only a single service have access to flexible in-home respite to support their HCPs.
“Flexible in-home respite provides up to four hours a week extra care at a cost of $5–$15an hour.”