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Minister discusses Productivity Commission report on aged care.

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Interview Bronwyn Bishop Minister for Aged Care



DISCUSSION ON THE FINDINGS OF A PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION REPORT ON AGED CARE IN AUSTRALIA. TERRY WILLESEE - PRESENTER: The number of complaints about nursing homes rose last financial year, as did waiting times for beds and of the older folk who choose to stay at home almost three hundred thousand frail and elderly were unable to get help at home even though they'd asked for assistance.

Those were among many findings of a Productivity Commission Report on behalf of federal and state governments and they cover a period when Aged Care Minister Bronwyn Bishop was telling us conditions for the elderly were improving. Well, Bronwyn Bishop joins us on the line. Minister, thanks for your time.


WILLESEE: Are you dry?

BISHOP: Yes, I am, thank you. Traffic's a bit of a problem this morning, though.

WILLESEE: Yes, it is. Now, what do you make of this report? What concerns you about it?

BISHOP: I welcome the report. This is a report that shows activity up to June 2000 and it shows the additional resources that the government has put into aged care since the reform period. It shows that we've increased funding by one point four billion dollars - that's one thousand four hundred million dollars.

It shows we've increased expenditure on HACC by thirty-eight point six per cent. It shows that we've increased expenditure for special interest groups like indigenous people and non-English speaking people. It shows that the provision of hours ... service hours available in the community through home and community care have increased by thirty-two per cent and it shows that we've increased expenditure into rural and remote areas.

WILLESEE: Yeah. Why then are there still problems such as waiting times for beds longer than three months rose from fifteen per cent in '98/'99 to eighteen point eight per cent in '99/2000?

BISHOP: There are two things that are important to say about that. Firstly, we increased the

time that an ACATs assessment team is valid for. It used to be only valid for three months and people were forced to make very speedy change or arrangements for their change of living circumstances. We increased that up to one year, so that people can have more choices.

Now, the second thing is we've ... as I've said, we've dramatically increased the amount of money that's been put into community aged care packages. There are only four thousand of those when we took over and I've increased it up to twenty-four thousand which means that people have the option of staying home where they want to be for longer.

And even those people who do eventually go into residential care, it does mean that they're allowed to stay home longer. It also gives them the opportunity to be more picky about where they want to go. And there is a definite shown evidence that people will choose a particular place which is going to become their home, where they wish to live.

WILLESEE: So, are you saying waiting times for beds is not a problem?

BISHOP: I'm saying that waiting times or entry periods is not like hospital. It's not like I have to go to hospital now. It is a question of the degree of frailty that I am experience [sic] means that I'm going to need more and more assistance, and there are now a variety of ways of getting that assistance, and staying home is where people want to be most.

WILLESEE: So, are you saying people are quite comfortable with the extra time it takes?

BISHOP: There is a lot of evidence that shows that people are quite prepared and wish to stay at home and have support at home while they wait for somewhere that is...

WILLESEE: Well, that's...

BISHOP: Now, if there's an emergency, an emergency, where somebody really needs to go into full-time care, that is usually achieved in forty-eight hours.

[Unrelated items]

WILLESEE: It is twenty-two minutes to ten o'clock. I'm speaking with Aged Care Minister Bronwyn Bishop. Minister, complaints against nursing homes to your department were also well up. In the first six months of 2000, one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three complaints were received. In the entire financial year to June '99, there were only two more -seventeen hundred and twenty-five.

BISHOP: Yes. This actually ... the period is June '98 to June '99 and then June '99 to June 2000 and so there is only a difference of two complaints, so basically it remains about the same.

WILLESEE: I understood it was a six month period with seventeen hundred and twenty-three complaints and for the entire financial year to June '99, there were almost a similar number. That's not right?

BISHOP: Well, the table that I have shows it as being the same and you'll find in the Productivity Report there is indeed a ... page 581, I think it is, you'll find a bar chart will show that they're basically the same.

WILLESEE: The report also says a third of elderly Australians living at home...

BISHOP: That's Australia-wide I'm talking about.

WILLESEE: I beg your pardon?

BISHOP: I'm talking about Australia-wide. There are variances in some of the states.

WILLESEE: Right. The report also says a third of elderly Australians living at home - two hundred and ninety-three thousand two hundred aged over sixty-five - reported that they'd sought help from community welfare agencies, but didn't receive it.

BISHOP: Community welfare agencies is a much more broad term. When we're talking about aged care which is totally funded through the Commonwealth by way of subsidy, with aged care homes, those people have to be assessed by ACATs teams. They're the Aged Care Assessment Teams. It's not just somebody ringing up and say, I think I want or I think I need. There is a process that has to be gone through before they're eligible. And indeed there are many assessments done where people are not eligible, in other words, they don't need that degree of care.

Then, there are the HACC, the Home and Community Care, where I fund sixty cents of every dollar spent by the state governments. Now, you don't need an ACATs assessment necessarily. Sometimes, they like an ACATs assessment for particular services they give, but that is a much broader and more readily available system.

For instance, Meals on Wheels, and people can get that very readily, that's perhaps one of the most used ones. Then, there's things like assistance with housekeeping and that sort of thing which comes through that system as well.

WILLESEE: Yeah. Okay, Bronwyn Bishop, we'll leave it there. Thank you very much indeed. You do paint a rosier picture than these statistics.

BISHOP: Well, I think I'm also able to do it because these figures are over six months old and since that period, I've also announced the biggest round ever of fourteen thousand places and forty-four million dollars of additional capital, that's an all-up additional expenditure of two hundred million to make up for the deficit that ... the Auditor-General found that the Labor Party through cutbacks had left a deficit of ten thousand places. Now, I've made that up with this latest round, so I do have more up to date figures as well.

WILLESEE: Thank you very much indeed for your time, Minister.

BISHOP: Great pleasure.

WILLESEE: Good to have you with us on 2GB.


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©Commonwealth of Australia, 2001

Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care web site 31 January 2001 Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care URL: