Coalition regional MPs in revolt over nursing care funding cuts

December 2, 2016

Funding cuts to the aged care sector worth $1.2 billion will be “re­arranged” by the federal govern­ment after an uprising among Coalition regional MPs fearing the changes were putting pressure on regional nursing homes.

The massive saving, unveiled in May’s budget, is in addition to $472 million to be eked out of the Aged Care Funding Instrument in December’s midyear economic and fiscal outlook; both target the dramatically escalating cost of complex nursing care in the sector.

After addressing the issue in parliament on Tuesday, Liberal National Party MP for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien told The Weekend Australian “imposing budget measures that lower the quality of care is morally wrong. We have to revisit the amount of money that we are pulling out of aged care.”

Mr O’Brien — who represents an electorate with some of the oldest constituents in the country — told parliament the changes had already resulted in cuts to nursing hours in Queensland.

He said he would “not stand for any policy, by any government, that sees a reduction in the quality of care for our older Australians.” The MYEFO measures have passed parliament but the $1.2bn worth of cuts have yet to be ­delivered.

The federal government has ­argued that the change is needed to address an “artificial” rise in claiming by providers for complex care needs such as pain management and wound dressing.

Aged Care Minister Sussan Ley said in May that complex healthcare costs would blow out by $3.8bn by 2020 without action.

Queensland LNP member ­George Christensen said he had raised his concerns directly with the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt.

“I know that small community-run nursing homes in my electorate and non-profits are hurting badly from a pare-back in ACFI funding,” he said.

“The problem is the ACFI cost blew out beyond all expectations. It seems some of the bigger corporate aged-care providers have found ways to optimise their ACFI payments, with optimise being Canberra-speak for rort when you can’t actually say rort.

“So the government has pared back the ACFI funding to where it should be, according to budget and industry estimates,” Mr Christensen said.

“The problem is the elderly men and women in smaller homes in rural and regional Australia are the ones who suffer as less ACFI funding means less in terms of service provision.”

Mr Wyatt is planning changes, possibly before Christmas, but The Weekend Australian understands the $1.2bn savings figure will not change and the government will seek to tweak the way it is ­achieved.

One Coalition MP, who did not want to be named, said he remained “unconvinced” the government’s rejigged measure would ease unhappiness care among ­regional providers.

The Coalition has experienced tensions between Liberal and Nat­ionals members in recent weeks, most notably when two Nationals senators backed a bill to lift the ban on the import of the Adler shotgun while three of the party’s cabinet ministers abstained from the vote.



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