Occupancy plummets to record low of 86.8% – COVID-19 not the only factor

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The 2020-2021 Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act was released by the Government last Friday – and occupancy in residential aged care has hit a new low.

Occupancy has dropped from a “catastrophic” 88.3% in June 2020 to a record low of 86.9% as of 30 June this year.

James Underwood (pictured) tells us that this marks the first time there have been fewer permanent residents at the end of a financial year than at the end of the previous year – despite an extra 1,960 aged care beds coming online during the year.

On a state-by-state basis, the report shows that NSW and Victoria experienced falls in occupancy which could be attributed in part to lockdown restrictions, but WA also saw a significant drop.

Only the smallest regions – Tasmania and ACT –  saw an uptick, while Queensland also had a small increase – the first time it hasn’t had the lowest occupancy rate in the country since 2016/17.

So, why the continued fall in occupancy?

While COVID-19 has played a part, James says the main factor is the continued growth in funded home care availability.

As discussed in our Home Care Packages data report story, there has been an increase of 36,751 HCPs in use in just the 12 months to 30 Sep 2021 (according to the latest ACFA figures) – mostly in Level 3 and 4 Packages.

“The highest levels of funded home care – Levels 3 and 4 – are very much aimed at assisting persons to remain at home (i.e., any home, including retirement living and supported accommodation other than residential aged care),” he said.

“These levels of home care have grown dramatically in availability and look to be achieving their objective.”

In short, before 30 June next year, there should be more Australians receiving an HCP than there are people in residential aged care beds – a significant shift for the sector.

We will have more analysis from the report in next week’s Thursday SOURCE.

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