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Little comfort in official response

Friday, 27th May, 2011

By Darrin Manuel

It seems locals can expect no help from the Federal Government on the aged care crisis any time soon.

A spokesman for the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, said yesterday the Government would spend $48.7 billion on aged care places over the next four years.

But there was no indication that moves were underway to alleviate the situation in the city's hospital.

Broken Hill families are facing the prospect of up to 18 frail aged people being relocated from the local hospital to aged care centres in Wentworth, Wilcannia and, eventually, Balranald due to overcrowding.

"Over the next four years the Government will provide some $48.7 billion in aged care funding. New aged care places are made available for allocation in each state and territory through the Aged Care Approvals Round," the spokesman said.

"These allocations are based on the aged care planning ratio and the level of current and future service provision.

"To ensure that older patients who remain in hospital continue to receive the care and support they need, the Government provides over $227.1 million to states and territories under the Long Stay for Older Patients Initiative.

"This provides time for those patients who may be considering entering aged care or community care to be assessed."

The spokesman said the Government had also provided a $3.25 million zero real interest Loan for the construction of a new 40 bed service in Broken Hill (the Harold Williams Home) which opened in April this year.

A change to the method in which the Federal Government allocates aged care beds is also some way off. The Government's "Caring For Older Australians" public inquiry is not expected to wind up until June.

The Government has tasked the Productivity Commission with developing options for re-designing Australia's aged care system.

"The scope of the inquiry includes examining the funding and planning structures for aged care services across rural, remote and metropolitan areas and the mix between residential and community care services," the spokesman said.

"The Government will consider these options in full when the final report is delivered in June this year."

With the health service looking to free-up its beds for acute care patients, the wait could be too long for some of the city's elderly patients.

The BDT has information that suggests the plight of the city's aged residents is even more dire than first thought, and expects to bring this information to light in the coming days.

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