Opinion: What is sustainability in aged care and how we are going to measure it?

The Aged Care Sector Committee, led by David Tune, worked to deliver a framework in 2016 that would help craft a strategic view of the sector for the coming short, mid to long term.

It’s a first for any Government to even consider a longer-term view. Credit to Minister Wyatt – he is positive that having a roadmap is helpful but also that we need a ‘whole of Government’ approach.

The facts are clear – we are an ageing society and with growth in GDP contribution towards subsidization of older Australians, Government needs to ensure a sustainability focus.

This ‘sustainability’ has a vexing three angles – sustainable for the Government over the forward estimates; sustainable and affordable for consumers; and sustainable for providers who need to rise to meet the challenge of substantial growth and bear the risk of significant capital investment (be that in buildings and or technology).

At the Aged Care Roadmap forum held in Sydney, last week Minister Wyatt was clear that the greatest challenge for any Government in moving forward with substantial reform is the unintended consequences to critical groups.

He is unashamed to highlight the importance of rural and remote Australia (to which all agree) and the need to meet special needs groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Australia’s track record was considered by Andrea Coote, the head of the Quality Committee for the Agency, recognizing the world-class status Australia has amongst international peers.

This position has come from all stakeholders delivering real reform and she was genuine in her sentiment that providers have risen to the challenge stimulated by the work of the Agency and the Department. She concluded that the National Quality Framework is delivering and continues to improve services and experience for those receiving funded age services.

In terms of discussion and debate, all 100 delegates at the roadmap forum agreed: we are not there yet.

As pointed out by Chris How of Bethanie Group, we need to take the time to define what sustainability is and how we are going to measure it. Only then will the milestones articulated have some chance of being measured.

The old saying goes “what is measured happens” and I tend to agree that if we don’t take the time to form this view we may not end up at the destination which is agreed to be sustainable.

The Aged Care Roadmap in its simplicity keeps the focus high and strategic. But anyone in the industry knows the devil is always in the detail.

Like any other systems approach, one change in one area can have unintended or multiple impacts elsewhere.

This is what I think is the greatest challenge for our Government.

The roadmap points to moving the industry to stronger market drivers but market failure or unintended consequences for Government where consumers are placed at risk or their needs aren’t met is just not palatable.

My view is that more of the details need to be considered in order for meat to start to go onto the skeleton without overcomplicating things.

Last week’s forum was a discussion – it included 100 stakeholders representing all manner of vested and interested parties from RAS/ACAT managers, academics, service providers, consumer groups, industry peaks, regional and remote, metropolitan and no doubt many other variables.

The big question now following the group-work-harnessed feedback, is whether or not the Minister will seek to adjust the roadmap or to simply leave it in its current form and try to gain broader support for a whole-of-Government approach.

We will all be waiting as his commitment was to confirm a view by July 2017.

In the meantime, David Tune will continue his brief of the legislative review and we just have to get on with what we know at present, which is to continue to innovate/re-engineer our business models to stay alive.

Cynthia Payne has been CEO of SummitCare Australia since 2002 and is a former LASA Board Director.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here