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Australian aged care homes found to require $621m more a year to reach ‘basic standards’

Research for aged care royal commission estimates $3.2bn a year needed to reach a high-quality standard

An extra $621m per year is needed to lift all aged care homes in Australia up to “basic standards”, according to research conducted for the aged care royal commission.

The research found “there’s not a lot of fat to trim” in a system already “constrained by funding”, and singled out for-profit aged care facilities as being the least likely in the sector to provide the best quality of care to older Australians.

The damning findings come as the federal government and the aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, continue to weather intense criticism of their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the sector.

The research, led by the University of Queensland, relied on on five years of financial data and care quality indicators including resident satisfaction and care needs that were developed by the University of Wollongong.

According to the paper, state government run facilities and small-sized homes with 15 beds or less are the most likely to deliver the best quality of care, but major discrepancies remain.

Of Australia’s best quality aged care homes, 24% are state government-owned homes, 13% are not-for-profit facilities and 4% are for-profit homes.

Of aged care facilities rated as providing the best quality of care, 41% are homes with one to 15 beds, while 17% are homes with 31-60 beds and just 5% are homes with 61-120 beds.

The research estimates providers would need to spend an extra $3.2bn per year in total for Australia’s entire aged care system to shift to the smaller home model to achieve a sector-wide high-quality standard.

“Funding levels might need to be much higher than the estimates ($621 million) if the Australian community and the Royal Commission aspire to achieve a higher quality in the future than facilities have achieved historically,” the UQ paper says.

Research author Associate Professor Tracy Comans told Guardian Australia “in terms of efficiency of the sector we’re finding there’s not a lot of fat to trim”, with total cost efficiency found to be 88% in the aged care system.

“The [state] government-run nursing homes are less constrained by staffing issues and costs, as they have access to additional funding from their respective state, but the other providers don’t have that extra funding,” she said,…

Elias Visontay

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