Budget or bust? May Budget looks like only hope for new aged care funding – why providers need to take the discussion to the next step

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May’s Federal Budget looks increasingly likely to be the only hope of increased funding for the sector as the spread of the virus – and the resulting impact on the Australian economy – further depletes the Government’s forecast $5 billion surplus.

PwC Australia is predicting the impact from the loss of Chinese tourists and students visiting Australia will slash $2.3 billion from our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – further cutting revenues following the Government’s pledge of $2 billion for the bushfire recovery effort.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) has been consistent in its calls for the Government to provide an emergency funding injection of $1.3 billion over the next 18 months to prevent aged care providers that are operating at a loss from closing their doors.

This week, CEO Sean Rooney again appeared on Sky News (pictured above) highlighting the plight of regional providers and those affected by the bushfires.

I spoke to Sean about the funding situation for the sector.

He says the latest research by the Royal Commission comparing Australia’s aged care system to other countries shows the sector is significantly underfunded and that needs to be addressed.

“We have the Interim Report saying there is an ambivalence in the country with regards to the needs of older people,” he said. “We are going to have to address it.”

The Royal Commission’s Interim Report resulted in a 10,000 increase in packages.

However, recent months have also seen StewartBrown data showing over 50% of operators running at a loss; the Chair of the Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) warning that the sector is verging on being unsustainable; and the release of a LASA survey estimating 200 providers are in immediate danger.

This week in The SOURCE, we had multiple stories of larger providers stepping in to rescue smaller operators.

As previously covered in The Daily COMMISSION, the Department of Health has said it holds no responsibility for providers’ financial situations.

But is depending on services to bail out each other a viable solution when all providers are trying to keep their own facilities afloat?

You must ask the question – what will it take for the Government to deal with this crisis?

One thing is clear: it now appears to be up to the sector to step forward and say ‘we need the cash’ – or face another Earle Haven-style scenario.