Billions set aside for aged care reforms

Long-awaited aged care reforms are set to be delivered thanks to a multi-billion dollar boost.

The federal budget shows $2.5 billion will be spent over the next four years to ensure all aged care facilities have a registered nurse onsite around the clock.

The funding, a major election commitment from the Albanese government, will also set aside $9.9 million over two years to establish an aged care complaints commissioner.

An extra $5 million will be spent to deliver better food for aged care residents, while a national registration scheme and code of conduct for carers will be set up with $3.6 million.

A further $540.3 million over the next four years will go to implementing recommendations of the aged care royal commission.

Aged care workers will also receive financial backing from the Commonwealth to support pay rises for employees, following its submission to the Fair Work Commission.

Tuesday’s budget has laid out plans for the set up of new urgent care clinics, which allow for more patients to see doctors for serious needs that are not life-threatening.

The centres, designed to take pressure off emergency departments, will cost $235 million, which includes $100 million to develop pilot programs alongside states and territories.

A further $750 million has been set aside for a Strengthening Medicare fund to help provide better medical care for patients.

A $229 million grants program for GPs will help clinics become more digital and invest in infection control measures.

Financial incentives for doctors with additional skills practising in regional areas will be rolled out as part of a $74 million program, while $24 million will be used to help regional areas trial ways to address rural doctor shortages.

While the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic may have passed, billions have been set aside by the government to deal with the ever-changing virus.

The Commonwealth will spend $2.6 billion to extend the country’s COVID response.

More than $850 million will be spent to support the aged care sector with managing the pandemic, such as in-reach testing and claims made by aged-care providers.

Almost $760 million will extend partnerships with the states and territories on the COVID response, which includes vaccine delivery and virus testing.

Extra rapid antigen tests and protective equipment will be secured for high-risk settings like aged care thanks to $410 million in funding, while $355 million will be spent on coronavirus vaccines.

An extra $73.9 million will be spent on purchasing additional monkeypox vaccines.

The government will also look to set up an Australian Centre for Disease Control to prevent further pandemics, with $3.2 million to be spent on initial design work.

Two new world class cancer centres, one in Brisbane and one in Adelaide, will also be established with the help of $452 million over six years.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson said the budget contained few surprises.

However, he said a bigger health spend was needed in 2023 in order to avoid exacerbating issues in the sector.

“The government faces an enormous task in dealing with public hospital reform, general practice reform, putting doctors and health care in rural and regional Australia,” Professor Robson told AAP.

“Spending on health is an investment, the government needs to understand that, and if they want budget repair, then there’s no better prescription for that than a health population.”


Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)


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