New aged care package will help MLs deliver
AT THE time of writing, the Gillard government had just released its $3.7 billion ‘Living Longer, Living Better’ aged care package.
It has to be acknowledged that the federal government took the bull by the horns and addressed the financing framework for the longevity of the aged care system. It has also taken seriously the glaring need for more services to support older Australians to age in their own homes.
A deeper analysis of this complex package does show that the Medicare Local (ML) agenda fits neatly in the broader scheme of delivering better aged care across Australia.
The question is, though, has it delivered enough to maximise the primary health care system within the funding framework?
AGPN welcomed some key healthcare components of the package to be delivered over a five-year window, including:
Better Health Care Connections: $58.5 million
Tackling dementia: $41.3 million
Palliative care: $21.7 million.
AGPN has been strongly advocating for improved measures in these areas of aged care, and the maturity of the ML network will develop rapidly through this aged care package.
There is still more room to move in the primary health care sector, especially around the general practice interface with residential aged care facilities. Frankly, this was a little underdone in the aged care package.
Another notable absence was investment in prevention and health promotion. Governments have increasingly acknowledged the population health and fiscal benefits of investing in prevention. Yet while the Commonwealth has acknowledged the need to focus more on ‘positive ageing’, the benefits of targeted health promotion activity for older Australians remain largely ignored at a national level.
More detail is also needed on the Gateway agency, intended to provide a single portal through which older Australians can access aged care information and services. To truly support better access to more coordinated care, there will need to be strong linkages with the primary health care system and what it can offer at a local level. Intentions for how the Gateway agency and Medicare Locals will work together remain unknown.
However, as MLs bed down beyond structural reform and develop the service delivery and connected care they’re tasked to do, a further question comes to mind: will this aged care package be sustained throughout a number of government terms of office regardless of the political sway, because short term political fixes do not amount to structural and funding reform.
Therein lies the duty of both sides of politics: having the ability and guts to do something progressive while at the same time relying on a mature and bipartisan approach to reform Australia’s aged care system.If it’s structural reform that both sides of politics want, then the structural reform has started through the development and establishment of Australia’s primary health care system, MLs.
These regional health agencies are starting to provide opportunities to deliver better access, quality and coordinated care for older Australians.
They have been tasked to manage and improve their population’s health needs and ensure services link up and coordinate smoothly in and around health services locally.
Through the ‘Living Longer, Living Better’ aged care package, the vision for better health care is now moving beyond being aspiration and becoming a reality.
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