Department of Health refuses to release StewartBrown report into financial impact of COVID on aged care sector over privacy concerns – peaks back call for release

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The Australian says a Freedom of Information request lodged by the paper in June for a copy of the report it commissioned from the advisory firm into the financial effects of the pandemic of the sector has been denied because of privacy concerns.

The Department’s Assistant Secretary, Nigel Murray, told the paper that “unauthorised disclosure of information would cause detriment” to those who provided the information “through financial loss and embarrassment” and could affect “the provider’s ability to obtain similar work”.

Both LASA and ACSA have supported the calls for the report’s release.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said independent, detailed costs about the reality of dealing with the virus would be valuable for the public, providers and the Government, while ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow argued it was vital “the government releases reliable, up-to-date data on the additional costs to aged care providers of handling the crisis (to) provide more informative data to plan and support the sector in protecting older people”.

However, the Department may have a point. In the Royal Commission’s latest research paper on financial transparency, global professional services firm BDO warned any new policies on disclosing financial information could impact on current and future investors.

As they stated: “It is likely that any new policies would have significant implications on the return on investment for investors and is likely to have a significant impact on the sector as a whole. There is insufficient data to determine this impact at this stage.”

The sector was already facing challenges in attracting investors before COVID – what effect could such a report have?

Pictured: Results from StewartBrown’s latest aged care financial performance survey for the nine months to March 2020.