Aged care beds see their smallest increase in numbers since 2016, James Underwood says – but operators need to focus on selling beds

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Just 3,748 new residential care beds were added this year – but this is good news for providers, the aged care consultant says.

In total, Australia now has 217,145 beds according to the latest residential aged care service lists released by the Government – the smallest increase since 2016.

While beds always close down or go offline, James says the figures indicate that Australia is finally building the right number of beds for a change – and this could have a positive impact on occupancy.

8,000 beds a year not needed

“Occupancy has been going down for 15 years, which is partly a reflection of Australia doing home care better – which is a good thing – but it is also partly a reflection of building too many beds,” he said.

“We may see occupancy uptick a bit if we keep building a smaller amount instead of building these big numbers.”

James says while there has been a large growth in the number of older people, the ‘Living Longer, Living Better’ blueprint for 8,000 beds a year from 2012-2022 was likely not needed.

Most of the new beds are located in Queensland where occupancy is lower, compared to Victoria where occupancy is now heading back up, he added.

NSW dominates number of three- and four-bed rooms

Interestingly, the data – sourced from My Aged Care – also shows there is still a large number of three- and four-bed rooms – particularly in NSW.

While the data shows many errors in information uploaded from providers, the firm’s “cleansing” of the data indicates that 99 NSW services still have one or more four-bed rooms, while 63 show one or more three-bed rooms – well above the next highest state which is Queensland.

James says most of these rooms would no longer be used for multiple occupancy given the current record low occupancy in residential care.

Most in Sydney in older homes

Most are located in Sydney in older-style facilities built prior to the 1997 Aged Care Act and its certification rules which banned rooms larger than two beds.

James says many would be unable to rebuild because of the size of their site and difficulty on containing Council approvals.

“The cost of buying new sites in Sydney is also prohibitive so a lot have been left to linger on,” he said.

Good salespeople essential for building occupancy

But while single rooms with ensuites are the preferred option today for consumers and their families, James points to the need for good salespeople too – not just good marketing.

“Many in the sector remember when we still had admissions clerks,” he said.

“They haven’t twigged that you need to have specialised, trained and well-paid salespeople… Marketing is setting up the skittles – sales is knocking them down.”

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About Author

Lauren is the Editor at DCM Group and has guided its range of media including The Weekly SOURCE, The Daily RESOURCE and The Donaldson Sisters since 2016. With 13 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and commentator, Lauren is the only journalist to have attended every session of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, producing 300 issues of the subscriber-only The Daily COMMISSION which offers exclusive insights and analysis of the issues surrounding the Royal Commission and the aged care sector.