(Australian Associated Press)
Older Australians have been waiting longer to enter residential aged care facilities after being approved for the service by health professionals.
The median waiting time for 2017/18 was 121 days, up from 105 days in 2016/17 and 84 days in 2015/16, the Productivity Commission said in a report on government services released on Tuesday.
The report found 44.7 per cent of people who moved into residential facilities did so within three months of approval by a local assessment team.
Of those approved for home care services, 42.3 per cent received them within three months in the second half of 2017/18, after a new system started in February.
Both residential and home care service are subsidised by the government, but clients are expected to contribute where they can.
Waiting times can be influenced by a range of factors, including the availability of funding packages and some people’s preference to remain at home for as long as possible.
As of June 2018, there were 207,142 operational government-subsidised places in residential facilities and 91,847 people receiving home care packages.
“Higher proportions of admission to residential care or commencement of home care within three months are desirable,” the commission warns.
Labor’s spokeswoman on ageing Julie Collins says the figures aren’t good enough.
“The waiting list for home care has grown to 127,000 older Australians, with many waiting more than a year to receive the care they have been approved for,” she said on Tuesday.
“Older Australians and their loved ones deserve better.”
Ms Collins says the results reflect cuts to aged care funding by the federal government, but Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said that’s blatantly wrong.
“The Liberal-National government has overseen increases every year in average payments for each permanent residential aged care recipient since coming to power,” he said on Tuesday.
He stressed the government had announced an extra 30,000 high-level home care packages in the past year, with an extra 14,000 places at residential facilities also due to be rolled out within months.
The Productivity Commission report has also laid bare a gradual increase in complaints made through the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and its predecessor.
The commissioner received 5779 complaints in 2017/18, up from 4713 in 2016/17 and 3936 in 2015/16.
But the report has noted such growth in complaints may not necessarily mean lower quality services, but rather may reflect more effective reporting and monitoring.
The complaints commissioner will be combined with the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency to create a single Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission from 2020.
The latest figures come after a royal commission into aged care was launched in Adelaide last week.