SENATOR Concetta Fierravanti-Wells told a mostly grey-haired audience in Dubbo yesterday of her first steps towards reforming aged care if a change of government allowed her to take up the reins of one of the most regulated industries in Australia.
The federal opposition spokeswoman for ageing would happily launch an assault on what she calls the aged-care “paper war”, if elevated to minister status.
But reducing the administrative burden on providers to make them more financially viable was not the first step.
“You’re not going to reform a system like this without having everybody on the same page,” she reiterated after the meeting.
“We want to set up a high-level steering committee that goes across all stakeholders. Working groups would deal with the nuts and bolts, taking into account the recommendations of the Productivity Commission.
“Within a year I would want an agreement between the sector and the government signed.”
That is when red tape would likely come under fire, an “easy change” the senator thinks could make a huge difference to the viability of providers including the smaller and not-for-profit kind struggling to keep their doors open in rural and remote communities.
About 90 people at the aged-care forum at the Orana Gardens Country Club heard 60 per cent of providers across the nation were “operating in the red” and nurses were spending 35 per cent of their time on paperwork.
“I believe at the moment a lot of money is being taken out of the system as a consequence of this administrative burden,” Ms Fierravanti-Wells said.
The senator is on a listening tour of Australia that has included asking providers and everyday Australians for their thoughts on the commission’s recommendations, which she claims have largely been ignored by the government.
They include turning struggling providers in the bush into “hubs” offering the likes of respite, daycare and palliative care alongside residential and independent living arrangements.
“The diversity of the model would enable them to attract more funding,” Ms Fierravanti-Wells said.
The senator and her host, Parkes MP Mark Coulton, advocated for more flexibility in an aged-care system that was not meeting demand for beds and “packages”, that pay for services for people still living at home.
“Only 8 per cent of older Australians go into residential aged care, while 92 per cent live out in the community,” Ms Fierravanti-Wells said.
“In the end, for me, it’s very important that people get the care that they want, where they want it and when they want it.”