Western Australia’s new Minister for Health has offered up very little of Labor’s plans to address issues impacting local aged care providers in his first official engagement to the industry this week.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Health, Roger Cook, addressed attendees at a LASA event on Thursday in what was supposed to be an opportunity for providers to hear what the new Government has in mind.
However, delegates say it was clear the new Ministry is still sorting itself out and many are not confident the Government has a real understanding of aged care programs or issues beyond the need for additional facilities.
While Mr Cook told providers there is land available for new facilities, the Minister for Seniors and Ageing, Mick Murray, told a local paper last month there are 3,500 Commonwealth bed licenses not being used and the McGowan Government is determined to fast-track new aged care developments.
“As Minister for Seniors and Ageing, I will have a strong focus on making sure WA’s older people are looked after well, our services are affordable, and facilities are kept to a high standard,” Mr Murray said.
“There are now more pensioners in this State than under 16-year-olds and the number of people aged over 85 is set to double in the next 20 years.”
“The McGowan Government will fast track the establishment of much needed additional aged care facilities to improve the quality of life for our seniors.
“There are currently 3,500 Commonwealth aged care bed licences not being utilised in Western Australia.”
“By identifying suitable land and removing existing planning and local government impediments, we will increase the supply of land available to the aged care sector,” he said.
Earlier in the year Mr Cook wrote this opinion piece about Labor’s plans for Putting Patients First, including elderly people remaining in hospital while they wait for a bed in an aged care facility.
But six weeks after what was a landslide election win, the Deputy Premier’s office won’t even confirm whether that policy is going ahead, let alone what’s going to happen with the Commonwealth NDIS agreement it has inherited.
The former Liberal state government allegedly signed off on the NDIS funding arrangement that would see WA running its own scheme, the day before it went into caretaker mode.
In a grilling at Senate estimates in March, Senators Rachel Siewert and Murray Watt took aim at the Commonwealth Department of Social Services for its role in the agreement, through which the Commonwealth would fund about 40 per cent of average NDIS package costs and the WA authority would cover 60 per cent and 100 per cent of administration and operating costs.
The Commonwealth will fund a maximum of 25 per cent of the risk of any increase in cost overruns—higher costs with participant numbers and average package costs, meaning for any increase in numbers of NDIS package recipients, which is already anticipated, the WA government will have to fund 75 per cent of the costs.
In other states, the 40-60 split is the reverse and how much it will cost the WA Government to run its own scheme has not been made public.
Inside Ageing has asked the offices of both Mick Murray and Roger Cook for their thoughts on the agreement, and why the Labor Government has chosen to separate the health, aged care and disability portfolios in contrast to other states, but we are still waiting for a response.