2.8 years waiting for a Home Care Package – to spend just two years on it: Ian Yates says concerted strategy is key to cutting national queue

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Older Australians are now spending up to a median time of 34 months – two years and eight months waiting for a Level 4 HCP – higher than the average two-year time spent in the package, according to the latest report on Government Services from the Productivity Commission.

It is an unbelievable situation.

So, will the Government increase funding for home care following the report? Or will the waiting list just get longer?

I spoke to COTA CEO Ian Yates (pictured above at the 2019 LEADERS SUMMIT) about the waiting times.

Ian says the “drip-feeding” of packages is not a long-term solution.

He believes a planned strategy is needed to ensure that no older person waits more than 60 days for a package – a target that Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck himself agreed was preferred on the ABC’s Q&A program last year.

This strategy would rely on three elements – extra budgetary measures, a workforce plan and the streamlining of the current HCP and Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) programs into a single system.

“The pressure on the HCP system is substantially distorting the CHSP system with a lot of CHSP used to supplement packages and many CHSP providers are not taking on new clients.”

Ian adds that with these measures, he thinks it would be possible to address the queue for less than the $2 to $2.5 billion a year estimated by the Department of Health as being required to meet demand.

For residential care, he is advocating a Government strategy to support providers in remote areas who are under financial pressure, plus a ‘structural adjustment’ package to enable poorer providers to exit the sector and assist better providers to take over those beds.

Key to this Ian says will be the abolition of the current Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR) process.

“What worries us is there are good providers that don’t have waiting lists but the ACAR system prevents them from expanding.”

Abolishing the ACAR would see more ‘bad’ providers leaving the system faster, according to Ian.

With the 2020 ACAR due to open in March however, it appears this reform is still far off.