$300m boost for nursing homes
Mark Metherell, smh
March 22, 2008
THE Rudd Government is experiencing its first brush with grey power.
On the heels of a Senate report appealing for an upgraded age pension, nursing homes are demanding more money after an official survey found 40 per cent were in the red.
Amid claims that some aged-care homes may be forced to close due to a lack of government funding, the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, has announced plans for 2500 new aged-care beds in areas where they are most needed.
The Government will deliver $300 million in interest-free loans for new beds in areas of high need, including areas on the NSW coast outside Sydney, Ms Elliot said.
Australia had one of the longest life expectancy rates and the Government was preparing for a near trebling of people over 65 in the next 40 years, she said.
The pressures from the ageing population hit home this week with the release of a Senate committee report, which found that despite a small rise in pensions in recent years, there were pockets of extreme need, particularly among single women.
The Senate community affairs committee appealed for the Government to act "urgently to address severe disadvantage" facing some elderly Australians.
As the Government prepares its first budget, leaders of the $7 billion-a-year aged care sector have launched a campaign following Labor's refusal to guarantee continue paying a 1.75 per cent loading on subsidies to nursing homes, a "temporary" measure introduced in 2004.
If the loading was allowed to lapse, "the nursing home sector in particular will go into meltdown", the chief executive of the Aged Care Association of Australia, Rod Young, said.
More than 40 per cent of aged care providers have reported a loss on their nursing home operations, according to a recent report by accountants retained by the Government to audit the financial reports of nursing homes.
Ms Elliot would not be drawn on whether she agreed with the report but pointed to a new funding arrangement, which began this week, which would pump up to $350 million a year more into aged care.