West Australian MP, Ken Wyatt, has been named Minister of Aged Care in the reshuffle following Sussan Ley’s resignation last week and will continue to oversee the ACFI review currently underway.
Aged Care will remain a portfolio within the Department of Health, with Greg Hunt appointed Minister of Health and appointed to Cabinet.
Most stakeholders believe it was the best possible scenario given Minister Wyatt has been overseeing aged care as the Assistant Minister for 18 months, with all the industry stakeholders welcoming the news.
Researchers from the University of Wollongong tasked with reviewing alternate options to ACFI are expected to hand in their report within a few weeks though have been updating Minister Wyatt, the Department and the Aged Care Sector Committee throughout the short review period.
Late last year a spokesperson for the Minister’s office said assessment of alternative models will be an iterative process over the course of 2017 and the Department would engage an external party to manage the later piloting of alternative models following the recommendations made by the University.
She said that consultation through the Aged Care Sector Committee has already commenced and it is intended that broader public consultation will take place at different stages throughout 2017 to help inform final Government decision making.
The piloting is expected to occur before the end of this financial year.
It is understood that five recommendations are on the table, though there is disagreement amongst stakeholders over whether a fast and complete overhaul or a staged, slower approach would be best for providers, consumers and the budget.
An activity based funding model appears to be the most likely outcome, with Minister Wyatt previously indicating his support for such an approach that closely ties aged care funding with reforms across primary care including chronic and complex conditions management and the PBS.
“There are reforms across primary care (Health Care Homes) and the management of chronic and complex conditions, strengthening rural and remote health, the role of pharmacies, streamlining the PBS, devolving health service decision-making out to the regions (Primary Health Networks), and mental health and suicide prevention trials, just to name a few,” Minister Wyatt said in a presentation he made at an aged care conference two months ago.
“Aged Care is a very important part of this reform process. Sustainable, equitable, integrated – this is the goal across all areas of our health system, and for aged care. Consumer-centred. People-centred. Choices. Flexibility.”
“In fact, this reflects how ageing has changed. Ageing has never been a more active, empowered experience – with older people making wonderful contributions to their communities for many years after retirement, being independent, self-sufficient and involved. And ‘aged care’ is about caring for people when they become frail, or if they get ill, and need support and convalescence, or if they need support around the home. It is about being there when people need support,” he said.
While key Departmental staff have previously suggested a new or revised model should be in place within five years, some fear it could take up to a decade.