A member of the federal government has criticised his own party’s plans to outsource the work of aged care assessment teams.

The federal Liberal Member for Monash, Russell Broadbent, used a speech yesterday to say the aged care review recommending “streamlining” of the RAS and ACAT workforces did not recommend outsourcing the services.

“ACAT teams… across Australia do the assessment for people who are about to go into aged care,” he explained. “I’ve been through it myself, with my own father.” 

“I’ve read the Legislated review of aged care 2017 report in regard to the ACAT teams. Recommendation 27 is ‘That the government integrate the RAS and ACAT assessment workforces’. 

“The report goes on to make other remarks around that. It doesn’t say that this area should be contracted out,” Mr Broadbent said.

Valuable experience is lost

Mr Broadbent suggested that, in his experience, outsourcing can lead to a loss of valuable experience.

“I’ve been in situations, in things that I did in my past life, where areas have been contracted out, and there is a great loss of experience that is extended to people,” he said.

“So I’d have to question whether this report, or the royal commission or any other report, actually asks the government to contract out this particular system. 

“We’d be losing an enormous amount of experience if that were the case and might find ourselves down the track with only one provider to provide the service and contract out that service.”

Mr Broadbent said he is “looking very closely” at the proposed reforms, which are intended to be rolled out in April 2021.

“I would expect that there will be further discussions with government,” he said.

Mr Broadbent’s comments echo those of NSW Liberal Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, who said rolling out the changes before the royal commission hands its findings down lacks “logic”. He said the matter was not raised with him at a recent meeting of state ministers or by the Minister for Health Greg Hunt or the Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck.

ACATs are made up of thousands of highly trained and experienced medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists and speech pathologists. They are employed by state-run hospitals to assess the level of care needed by older Australians.

Workers in the RAS services, on the other hand, only require a Certificate II in aged care.

The government has lied about ACAT outsourcing being recommended

In the Legislative Review of Aged Care, David Tune recommended RAS and ACAT teams be streamlined. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has also said the services would benefit from their “amalgamation”. 

However, neither suggested the services be put to tender to private organisations, and in fact the ACAT system is one of the few aspects of the aged care system that has not come under criticism from the royal commission. 

Yet the government has repeatedly said its reforms were recommended by David Tune and the royal commission.

Last month, the royal commission was forced to issue a statement to say it “does not endorse the government’s stated position”.

Changes should wait until after royal commission

A statement from the Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors, Julie Collins, said the Liberal government should “come clean” about why it wants to outsource the assessments.

“It makes no sense to make this decision before the final report of the Aged Care Royal Commission is released in November,” she said.

Rick Morton wrote in last week’s The Saturday Paper the proposed reforms to aged care assessments have created concerns their purpose could be to “manipulate” home care waiting lists, which currently sit at more than 100,000 people. Data also shows 12,000 older Australian died in a single year while waiting for their correct level of home care services to come through.

 

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