The Federal Government hasn’t provided a clear commitment to improving critical allied healthcare services, such as physiotherapy for older Australians in residential aged care.
The 2022-23 Federal Budget maintains a cloud of confusion hanging over the aged care sector about the provision of care by highly qualified health professionals such as physiotherapists who prevent, diagnose and manage a range of conditions and illnesses.
“The Federal Budget delivers basic care needs in residential aged care, but not clinical allied health care that maintains and improves quality of life,” APA National President Scott Willis said.
“Aged care residents deserve to choose and receive care from highly qualified professionals that maintains and improves their physical and cognitive function, manages pain, prevents falls and helps them lead full lives.
“When I met with Aged Care Services Minister, Senator Colbeck, he reassured me that the Government understands the value of physiotherapy, particularly in the aged care sector. Minister Colbeck indicated that more money will be injected into the aged care system and that physiotherapy would be properly represented.
“In this regard, the Budget is disappointing; however we eagerly await further announcements by the Morrison Government that demonstrates their commitment to recognising the scope and engagement of physiotherapy in residential aged care.
“There is a real risk that the ongoing uncertainty about employment opportunities in residential aged care will drive valuable, highly qualified physiotherapists out of an already under-resourced sector,” Mr Willis said.
The APA welcomes all measures to increase medication reviews by pharmacists that enable safe medication management to address conditions including pain, depression and symptoms of dementia. However, the Government has not addressed funding enabling physiotherapy care that can also aid in the management of these conditions.
“The APA has called on the Morrison Government to introduce dedicated needs assessment and funding to ensure aged care residents can continue to receive physiotherapy,” APA National President Scott Willis said.
The Budget has clarified the Government’s reliance on the new funding model, the Australian National Aged Care Classification, to deliver care with no additional separate and dedicated funding for allied health.
Mr Willis said he understood the Support at Home program reforms were underway and looked promising but more consultation was required.
“With so many pieces of aged care reform currently underway, we need a clear roadmap to reform and more consultation so that we can better support this once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the care of older people.”
“The Opposition has acknowledged the importance of allied health in residential aged care and I look forward to hearing its Budget response and aged care policies,” Mr Willis said.
Physiotherapy in aged care
Physiotherapists assess, deliver and monitor care in areas including:
- Maintaining and improving mobility
- Falls prevention and reduction
- Pain management
- Physical, behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (which affects more than half of residential aged care residents), and
- Identifying causes of and managing incontinence.
Research has demonstrated that physiotherapy-led exercise interventions can reduce life-threatening falls in residential aged care by 55 per cent if adequate preventative programs are funded.
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Scott Willis is available for comment.
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