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Insight

It’s up to us to create a better future for health and aged care

Darrell Price
By:
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Grant Thornton invited Commonwealth Bank and three CEO’s new to the health and aged care sector to participate in a pre-Budget webinar panel at the end of last month. The resulting conversation was positive, with panelists agreeing that transparent funding and a forward-looking, collaborative and proactive approach from strong sector leaders is needed to face the challenges of the sector.

On the panel was Charles Moore (CEO, BaptistCare NSW & ACT), Coralie Nichols (Diocesan CEO of Anglian Church Newcastle), Melissa Argent (CEO, Rockpool Residential Aged Care), Belinda Hegarty (Head of Healthcare Business Banking, Commbank) and Darrell Price (National Head of Health and Aged Care, Grant Thornton). The panelists delved into governance and moving from a clinical to a consumer focus, their hopes for the future and where they think the funding will come from.

Webinar highlights

Watch the full webinar recording now

The following questions were posed from the webinar audience, with many focusing in on governance and funding. Questions have been answered by Darrell Price, with input from the panel.

 

How do you implement change from a clinical focus to a consumer focus based on budgetary constraints and staff retention issues?

That’s a big question and one that will be dependent on each providers’ business model and focus. For example, government owned residential facilities, especially those attached to hospitals, will likely to continue to have a greater clinical focus, rather than those in denser, more affluent markets where competition will drive a more consumer focused approach.

 

The first recommendations from the Commission refer to a new Act, a specialised Cabinet Committee, a new Australian Aged Care Commission, a Pricing Authority, a new Department reporting to the Secretary, an Elders Council. Does the panel think that a changed governance structure will lead to greater respect of the human rights for older people?

These are important first steps, however there needs to be a wider community discussion about death, dying and life’s journey through to end of life. Our whole community needs to better understand the role of aged care services in supporting the elderly when and where they need it.

 

Do we need to undertake qualitative and quantitative research to understand how increased funding will correlate to effectiveness and excellence, and measure levels of quality of care delivered at home and residential aged care, to prevent abuse of older Australians?

We certainly need further research into the measurement of quality of life and how services can realise quality outcomes for care recipients. The current quality framework is a good foundation, however doesn’t address some of the relationships between financial investments in services and quality outcomes for people receiving care.

 

The need for more funding is fundamental but where does the panel think the additional funding will come from and what must the sector do to get funding sources which do not rely on government reactions to the RC recommendations?

Disappointingly, Commissioners Pagone and Briggs avoided the opportunity to endorse a funding model that sees those who can afford to pay for their care to do so. We believe that an aged care model could be developed akin to the healthcare system where there are clear safety nets for those that cannot afford to pay, while those that can do pay. This would allow governments to limit their own expenditure by capping care, daily living and accommodation subsidies, and allow consumers to contribute above these levels on a means tested basis. This would increase funding for providers, and increase the quality of care by increasing competition for people who can pay.

 

With uncertainties around future funding models, how is the Bank assessing, today, Operators’ capacity to borrow to fund capital expenditure and growth?

There is an underlying assumption, based on comments by Ministers Hunt and Colbeck, that funding will increase across the sector. While the allocation models may change affecting individual providers, any new model will need to address the imbalance between metro, rural, remote and very remote services. The banks will continue to support providers who demonstrate commitments to good governance, financial management and clinical excellence.

 

Great to see new leadership from outside the aged care sector. The challenge will be overcoming the clinical bias and the uneven control driven by clinical leaders in Aged Care. How will you change the uneven approach in Aged Care?

This will take time and hopefully new funding models might accelerate the process. I feel the panelists’ approach to balancing the clinical and commercial conversations is refreshing and will lead to better outcomes for those in care.

Watch the full webinar recording now