AMA outlines 'can't wait' reforms to fix aged care

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The AMA says it has estimated that over the year up until 30 June 2021, there will be almost 28,000 admissions of residents from nursing homes to hospitals that were potentially avoidable.

The association said its analysis shows the cost of these potentially preventable admissions could top $300 million and account for almost 160,000 hospital patient days.

It said it has identified $21.2 billion in savings that could be made over four years if immediate reforms were implemented to Australia's aged care system.

The four-year savings comprise potentially avoidable admissions to private and public hospitals from nursing homes ($1.4 billion), from older people in the community ($18.2 billion), those transferred to emergency departments but not admitted ($497 million), re-presentations to emergency departments within 30 days ($138 million) and people waiting in hospital for a place in a nursing home ($887 million).

“The potentially preventable hospital admissions - just one aspect of the current nursing home experience - show there are substantial savings to be made with immediate reform,” said AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid.

“We believe these hospital admissions, presentations and stays could be prevented through better provision of primary care in aged care settings and that means investing in GPs and Registered Nurses.

“We’ve gone to great lengths dissecting publicly available data and applying conservative estimates to cost this.

“Our new report clearly states the action required to future-proof aged care so we have a system we, ourselves, would be happy to live in and send our parents and other loved ones to,” said Dr Khorshid.

The AMA' sets out its vision – where the health care and aged care systems work together and complement each other - in ‘Putting Health Care Back Into Aged Care’.

It calls for proposals to improve patient care and attract more GPs into aged care. It makes 11 recommendations for the government.

The AMA said it made these recommendations to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

“Proper medical care based on the needs of our older people is a basic human right and our broken system is failing them,” said Dr Khorshid.

“We understand properly funding aged care will require significant investment, but this is an opportunity to also significantly improve the quality of life for older Australians while also realising substantial savings in other parts of the health system. 

“Not enough nurses and limited access to GPs are behind the frequent transfer of older people in nursing homes to hospitals, often resulting in unnecessary prolonged stays.

“An alarming number of them - more than 27,000 a year - were potentially preventable and, with continuity of care through the patient’s regular GP, they may have been avoided entirely.

“That’s why we are calling for the GP to be placed at the heart of aged care, backed by adequate numbers of nursing staff so health care is put back into aged care.

“The extra expenditure we have costed for GPs and other medical specialists to operate in aged care is relatively modest - $145 million per year – compared with the savings we have identified,” added Dr Khorshid.