Thursday, 9th June, 2011
Civic leaders unite to push aged care change
by Craig Brealey
Broken Hill will have a unique case to put to the Federal Government soon that could help to solve the city's aged care crisis - but the city as a whole has to keep up the pressure.
The Government has already been told by the Productivity Commission that its "one size fits all" approach to funding hospitals and aged care does not work and that it had to accept that different places had different problems.
Yesterday a roundtable meeting in the city seized on this point and decided that if the city could present a good plan of its own then the Government might well accept it.
The high-level meeting, held in the Council Chambers, resolved to have a proposal ready to put to the Government by August.
The proposal will be put together by a working group comprising representatives of the hospital, the aged care services, City Council and the local federal MP.
Yesterday's meeting was called to discuss what could be done to stop our elderly citizens being sent out of town because there are no aged care beds for them here.
It was attended by federal and state MPs (including the NSW Minister for Ageing), the chiefs of the health service and aged care providers, and the city's mayor.
The main idea is to convince government that it has to be more flexible in the way it provides funding so that more aged care places come to Broken Hill.
The city was a long way from anywhere else and it was unreasonable to expect us to accept that we have to send our old folk far away in their last years, the meeting was told.
Now beds are funded as either aged care or acute care and the plan is to get a multi-purpose model which includes both the hospital and the aged care services.
Local Federal MP Sussan Ley said after the meeting that there was now a "definite path forward".
"It won't happen overnight, there is no magic wand we can wave but this is a good outcome," she said.
The Federal Government accepts funding applications twice a year and the next one is due around August, Ms Ley said.
"There's a lot of work to do between now and then. If we can present something that might be little bit different then we've got a good chance.
"Broken Hill needs to have a community aged care facility in town, not at some distant point."
Alan Carter, the CEO of Southern Cross Care, said there was room to expand at the nursing homes.
"One of the most important things is to convince the government of the need for flexible funding models. Then we can add more beds," Mr Carter said.
Under the current model, aged care beds receive funding only when there is someone in them. In other words, the money stops when the bed becomes empty and this makes keeping extra beds unviable.
"If we can be in a position where 100 per cent occupancy is not a requirement, there's a way forward," Mr Carter said.
"If the community gets behind us, we have a solution."
Ms Ley said she had met Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon a couple of weeks ago and told her about the need for a multi-purpose model.
Ms Roxon was interested and said she would be happy to look consider such a model, Ms Ley said.
"If we come up with a proposal that will not cost an arm and a leg and makes use of the existing funding stream, that could provide a solution into the long term."
Ms Ley said she had visited the aged care service in Wilcannia, which she described as "terrific," but that, like the ones in Wentworth and Balranald, they were a long way from Broken Hill.
Dr Steve Flecknoe-Brown, chairman of the Far West Local Health District, said the meeting was a big step forward but that local citizens had to keep up the fight.
"The voice of the community is being heard and we have to make sure this continues on their behalf until we got these beds for this town," the doctor said.
"The way the media has carried this has been brilliant and it is the best opportunity we've had since I have been here, so we want to keep the momentum going, please."
Mayor Wincen Cuy said everyone at the meeting showed that they understood the problem and were ready to help.
"Everybody was here for community. I believe that there is model and if we make it unique - and Broken Hill has been unique for 128 years - then we are happy to be a front for this. Everything today was positive."