Aged Care Assessment Teams

Friday 06 Mar 2020

The Morrison Government has made the decision to back down against plans to privatise aged care assessment teams (ACAT). These teams are the first point of contact for elderly Australians to assess the level of care they require to stay in their homes or move into residential care. The privatisation of such aged care assessment teams could severely reduce the quality of aged care services across the country. 

Fear arose that if the critical assessment step was passed on to the private sector the current standard of assessment would’ve decreased and moved to a KPI-focused model.

The Federal Government, which funds ACAT, in December announced a network of private assessment organisations would deliver it from April 2021, with a tender to be held this year. However, Health Minister Greg Hunt told his state and territory colleagues at a Council of Australian Governments meeting that this move was now “unlikely to proceed”. 

After it was announced, the potential move of outsourcing the service was lambasted by NSW, Victorian and Queensland Health Ministers. New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said, “It seems pre-emptive and unreasonable to be effectively privatising health aged-care services while the royal commission into aged care is still under way. Not a lot of logic there.” 

More than 400,000 aged care assessments are completed every year for home-care packages and residential care, at a cost of $800 an assessment. They determine if an elderly person needs help showering, cooking or cleaning at home, with expert health professionals discussing further care options with families. Concerns were rightly raised about potential conflicts of interest if a company that operated nursing homes was also running assessment teams, along with there being delays for patients if the service was not based in the local hospital.

Queensland Acting Health Minister Leanne Enoch said the state was also concerned about the tender process and what it would mean for elderly Queenslanders. “The Commonwealth thinks a market-led solution is the answer to every problem—the reality is health systems are better placed to make the clinical assessments required to ensure people receive funding packages that reflect their needs.”

Dr Timothy Woodruff of the Doctors Reform Society said the move would’ve be been disastrous. “Poorly trained assessors will inadequately assess complex patient needs as they gouge Government fees for their private owners and force the dedicated assessors out of the system because they will not be profitable. More taxes wasted and gifted to private businesses,” he said. Not going through with this plan ensures consistent and accurate assessment for hundreds of thousands of elderly Australians.

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