Senate inquiry gives green light to second bill

The second aged care bill – the Aged Care Amendment (Care Reform Implementation) Bill – was approved by a Senate committee with near unanimous agreement.

Originally scheduled for August 31, and following a public hearing on August 25, the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs approved the bill two days later on Friday.

It includes a dissenting report – by independent Australian Capital Territory Senator David Pocock – and a recommendation from the Australian Greens in response to concerns raised by the Allied Health Sector about the impact of changing funding models.

David Pocock

While broadly supporting the bill, Mr Pocock shared the concerns “reflected in the submissions and expert testimony provided to the committee regarding the unlimited power given to the executive to establish an exemption framework for the requirement of a registered nurse in subordinate legislation”.

Mr Pocock also noted that subordinate legislation was not available for review at the time of the inquiry.

The Care Reform Implementation Bill contains three major proposals, as recommended by the Royal Commission:

  • reinforcement of transparency measures for service providers
  • cap on home care costs
  • Mandatory requirement for facilities to have registered nurses on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

However, there will be exemptions for rural and regional facilities unable to recruit a registered nurse.

With regard to on-site RNs, Mr Pocock called for the bill to be amended “to identify either the Secretary to the Department of Health and Aged Care or the Quality and Safety Commissioner of elder care as a decision maker for granting exemptions”.

Greens support with paramedical consultation

By submitting additional comments to the inquiry, the Australian Greens have broadly supported the passage of the Bill through Parliament.

“We particularly welcome the implementation of 24/7 nursing support, to provide the care and support that older Australians need and deserve in residential care. As a number of intervenors noted in their submissions to the Inquiry, the requirement of on-site nurses is an important reform that is long overdue.

“We also want to see improvements in working conditions for older workers, supported by staff ratios, improved wages and award conditions, and access to training.”

However, the Australian Greens have noted concerns raised by physiotherapists and other allied health care providers over the move from the Aged Care Funding Instrument to the Australian National Aged Care Classification. The Greens recommended “that the Australian Government consult closely with residents, care providers and paramedical aged care specialists, to ensure that paramedical services are appropriately funded and available to all who need them. need “.

Coalition senators also submitted additional comments stating that in their view “this bill does not provide the detail necessary to transparently inform providers, the industry or the general public of the requirements to be placed on retirement homes. .

“Much of the details of this political reform will be determined by subordinate or delegated legislation, of which there are currently no details. These concerns were continually expressed throughout the committee’s investigation.

Craig Equipment

Responding to the committee that gave the green light to the bill, the CEO of the Aged Advocacy Network, Craig Gear, said: “OPAN strongly supports round-the-clock nursing care, including in nursing homes. regional, rural and remote senior care where providers have been unable to recruit staff. with the required skills. A senior’s location should not determine the hours of nursing care available to them.

As for any exemptions, Mr Gear said they must be ‘time limited, carefully calibrated and monitored to ensure older people receive the right level of care’.

OPAN also welcomed the bill’s transparency measures, which will lead to the publication of more detailed information on provider spending and performance.

“We know from what seniors have told us that greater transparency will be crucial in restoring their faith in the senior care system,” Mr. Gear said.

Referring to the cap on home care costs, Mr Gear said the measure “addresses one of the most frequently raised issues with advocates across all of our nine member organisations”.

The Aged Care Amendment Bill (Care Reform Implementation) was introduced in Parliament at the end of July along with the Aged Care Amendment Bill and Other Acts (Reply of the Royal Commission) – which was passed by both Houses of the House within days of its introduction.

The Senate could vote this week on the healthcare reform implementation bill. To cross the house, he will need the support of the 12 green senators and a crossbencher.

While OPAN commended the Albanian government for the speed with which it has implemented aged care reform, “much remains to be done”, Mr Gear said.

Citing the rollout of the Home Support Scheme, OPAN supports its postponement until July 2024 and calls for Australian seniors to be consulted in the decision-making.

“This is a unique opportunity to reform home care,” said Mr. Gear. “Older people need to be involved in the design of the program – because they are the experts.”

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Norman D. Briggs