The health package – announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured above left) in Canberra yesterday – is aimed at preventing and treating COVID-19 in Australia in the coming weeks and will provide funding to aged care providers as well as GPs, hospitals, research and the National Medical Stockpile.
The aged care funding includes:
- $101.2 million to educate and train aged care workers in infection control and enable aged care providers to hire extra nurses and aged care workers in both residential and home care.
- Extra aged care staff to be available for deployment to facilities as needed where an urgent health response is required and to provide additional support for staff and training.
- Extra funding for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to work with providers on improving infection control.
This funding is only dedicated to addressing the spread of the virus.
The PM is expected to reveal a further $10 billion stimulus package to ‘steady the ship’ as early as today following Monday’s 7.3% fall in the ASX to its lowest levels since the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-08.
Among the measures in this package being touted in the media are cash payments to pensioners, Newstart recipients and small businesses, tax breaks for households, export costs temporarily axed, tax deductions for new investments and spending on infrastructure.
But there is a strong argument for funds to be directed to the aged care sector.
Aged care keeping local businesses open
Think about it.
Like the handouts to pensioners and those on Newstart, aged care providers will spend the funding immediately at the local level.
For example, paying physiotherapists to treat residents and increasing staff hours to deal with the growing workload brought on by the outbreak.
This will flow onto to other local businesses – consider the recent closure of the DP Jones aged care home in Murchison which we have covered.
One of the arguments for keeping the home open was that it was also supporting the local medical centre, pharmacy and community centre – providing the community with access to other essential services.
Passing on part of the stimulus package to aged care providers will offer a reprieve to the hundreds of providers at risk of closing their doors.
This will give them six months of ‘breathing space’ to get themselves together while the Royal Commission wraps up and prepares to deliver its recommendations in November.
While these higher funding levels would be temporary, they would help to return aged care providers to the position they were in before the Government paused the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) indexation in 2016 – severely damaging the viability and sustainability of the sector.
Sky News commentator says aged care will receive funding boost
At the Australian Financial Review Business Summit in Sydney on Tuesday, the Prime Minister offered no details on the package but called on businesses to support their staff.
“We now have one goal together this year – to protect the health, the wellbeing, and livelihoods of Australians through this global crisis, and to ensure that when the recovery comes – and it will – we are well positioned to bounce back strongly on the other side,” he said.
However, one media commentator says aged care will be on the receiving end.
Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell (pictured above) says sources tell him that aged care will receive hundreds of millions in extra funding to deal with the coronavirus – adding that the Government is planning for the crisis to last around six months before the economy begins to return to normal.
You can watch his report here.
“The package will include hundreds of millions for health and aged care, I can reveal,” he said. “Nursing homes are helped out in terms of dealing with the crisis; GPs are helped in terms of them dealing with the crisis, in terms of screening and in terms of care in the community.”
Mr Clennell also noted that the PM has promised that the package will be scalable – critical for aged care providers.
“That will be interesting in terms of will the aged care sector need more down the track if the crisis were to continue?”, he asked, adding there are only eight weeks to the Budget where more cash payments could be delivered.
If this is the case, it could be the lifeline the sector has been waiting for.
Stay tuned then.