The additional funding allocated to My Aged Care in the 2017 Budget will not be used towards improvements but to continue operating the IT platform, senior Departmental staff have admitted in Budget estimates.

A further $3.1 million was announced in the May Budget for My Aged Care, which providers say has been plagued by problems since it expanded from an information service to a complete operational portal in 2015.

The revelation the additional funds will not be put towards fixing the portal came towards the end of last week’s Budget estimates hearing, when Senator Helen Polley asked what the money will be used for, describing the expense so far as being “a bit like a black hole or a racing horse or a fishing boat. It is just never-ending.”

Departmental leaders were unable to explain what the money will be used for, other than “ongoing support for the platform”.

“As we make a more complex system, that $3.1 million for this year is for making sure that the IT system continues to work. It is not for enhancements. It is just to make sure that the IT system works. We do releases about every quarter, and it is to make sure that the system is working as optimally as we can make it,” First Assistant Secretary Fiona Buffinton said.

When told that providers maintain My Aged Care is still not working as it should be, Ms Buffinton defended the system saying “everyone, except for assessors, are much more positive about My Aged Care”.

“The AMR research and NACA acknowledge the fact that My Aged Care has improved markedly.”

One stakeholder that does not agree is the Australian Medical Association, which has told the AMR in a recent submission about My Aged Care that its lack of integration with GP systems is creating unnecessary administrative burdens.

Pulse IT has reported the AMA’s submission focuses on “the lack of an integrated referral form for GPs, a lack of transparency around the progress of assessments and a lack of consultation with referring doctors when dealing with the My Aged Care call centre.”

The next wave of research about My Aged Care will be released in July, which is also when information about home care packages and the national queue of consumers waiting to be allocated a package is expected to be made available.

Transparency of the national queue for home care packages was also discussed at length during the Estimates session, where it was revealed that of the 30,000 packages released over the last three months, only 7,335 have been new packages and about 10,000 have been ‘automatic upgrades’.

Meanwhile 62,000 assessment referrals were issued by My Aged Care between January and March, but Ms Buffinton said the Department will not know until the end of June the true impact of the February changes to home care packages or the state of the national queue.

She said the lag is due to providers not updating My Aged Care as soon as people are assigned packages, but also said that many people are requesting the 28-day extension beyond the initial 56-days for people to accept a package.

The Department will publish data about home care packages from March to June at the end of July, and then intends on publishing information quarterly.