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Aged Care Bed Licences

Estimates & Committees
Rachel Siewert 23 Feb 2011

Community Affairs 23 February 2011

Senator SIEWERT—I want to follow up some work we have been following up on licences. I am a little bit confused as to the 15 per cent cap on extra services, whether it is intended as a guide or whether a 15 per cent cap is strictly applied. So, could we clarify that first, please?

Ms C Smith—No, the 15 per cent requirement for each state and territory is a legislative requirement, but it is for the overall state or territory.

Senator SIEWERT—So, could we clarify, is it applied as a guide to regions then or is it applied as a cap? Is that then subsequently applied down to—

Ms C Smith—It certainly points to the complexity of ESS rounds because there is the overall requirement for 15 per cent, but that will vary region to region and we have to make sure that the overall is 15 per cent, but my colleague, Ms Robertson, might be able to elaborate.

Ms Robertson—Below a state and territory level we actually do look at regions, but that is where we use the 15 per cent only as a guide, because essentially what we are looking at is whether or not people have a reasonable level of access to aged care. Sometimes there will be regions that will go above the 15 per cent; other times there will be regions below that 15 per cent, but as long as we do not break the 15 per cent at the state and territory level there is quite a bit of flexibility in there.

Senator SIEWERT—Do you have a list of extra services by regions?

Ms Robertson—I do not have it with me but I would be able to look at that within the department, yes.

Senator SIEWERT—If you could take that on notice that would be appreciated. Then could we break them down by percentage of the allocated extra services that are currently in operation?

Ms Robertson—You are talking just about operational extra service places by region?

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, they are the operational ones. Then the ones that have been allocated but either have not been constructed or are not in operation.

Ms Robertson—Do you want provisional allocations?

Senator SIEWERT—Yes.

Ms Robertson—So those which have been allocated but are not yet operational. And you want offline places?

Senator SIEWERT—Yes.

Ms Robertson—Offline are the ones that have been operational but are currently offline.

Senator SIEWERT—I am trying to get my head around how it operates as to who has got what by region and then how it operates—and I can understand the 15 per cent cap—in terms of when some are offline and allocated but have not been constructed and what happens if they do not come online. As you know, for example, in my home state we have a lot of general bed licences that have not been taken up, so I am trying to get my head around that.

Ms Robertson—We have to take a flexible approach to that too because obviously we have got the two-year time frame with regard to making provisional allocations operational. For providers to be able to apply and get an extension beyond that 10 years they have to show that they are actually making very real progress towards getting a home built. With regard to the offline places, as well, we are seeking regular quarterly reports from providers around offline places just to see what they are doing with them because we are conscious of that issue that you raise. Are there any specific regions that you are after?

Senator SIEWERT—Focus on WA. Once I have got my head around that I will look at some of the other states. I appreciate you will have to take this on notice, but in Western Australia, for example, how many regions are above the 15 per cent?

Ms Robertson—I could not tell you that at the moment. I do think that, from memory, when you do look at some of the regions they are very close to, if not over, the 15 per cent, but there are only a few.

Senator SIEWERT—Maybe you could take this one at an Australian level: where are each of the states in terms of where they are at? Are they at their 15 per cent or below it? That is just for the states.

Ms Robertson—What I can tell you is that obviously with every extra service round that is run by the department the levels of extra service do increase, so at some point you are getting to a level where there is going to be less and less available.

Senator SIEWERT—Fewer new ones approved?

Ms Robertson—That is exactly right. I think we are starting to get to that point, probably in the last round, or there are some states and territories that may be very close to hitting that 15 per cent.

Senator SIEWERT—I understand that in WA, which is why I am obviously bringing this up; it has been raised with us that some regions are at their 15 per cent and that is raising a lot of concerns.

Ms Robertson—Yes, I understand that. I think the other thing to keep in mind is that we do look for some flexibility between regions within the overarching state level but at the end of the day we still have to make sure that we are operating within the spirit and intent of the act to ensure that people are able to reasonably access services that they need.

Senator SIEWERT—I absolutely understand that. I am also looking at it in terms of the very special case of Western Australia, and you have heard all of the issues around viability. We do seem to be at that forefront of viability issues, and that is why it particularly is being raised. I am conscious of jurisdictions.

Ms Robertson—We are trying to work with the stakeholders in that regard to look at the regions. We are more than happy to listen to any suggestions that they have around that.

Senator SIEWERT—On how to work within the boundaries of the 15 per cent—

Ms Robertson—That is right, at the state level.

Senator SIEWERT—and between regions for example.

Ms Robertson—That is right.

Senator SIEWERT—I have a number of other questions that I will put on notice but I just have a few more I would like to ask. When the last round was going were some regions given the understanding that they were already well supplied?

Ms Robertson—Yes. In the essential guide there were some regions where we said that there was quite a high level of extra service in those regions. That did not necessarily preclude people from applying. It was just offered as information because we do try to provide as much information as we can to help inform the sector when they are making their applications.

Senator SIEWERT—Where they were already well supplied, did they include some areas that were offline—I am using your terminology—or had not been constructed yet?

Ms Robertson—Or provisional?

Senator SIEWERT—Yes.

Ms Robertson—Generally, we would definitely take into account the provisional allocations because they are ones that we are actively pursuing to build. So they would definitely have to be taken into account. With regard to the offlines, I am not sure. I would have to go back and check on that if you would like me to.

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, if you could. If you could pick it up when you are preparing that other information that would be appreciated, thank you. I realise now that what I am going into is specifically for WA, although it may have happened in other states. In terms of where they were provisional, would those include licences where some of those beds actually look like they are unlikely to be built because we have got more than—

Ms Robertson—I understand that. That is what I was saying before about the requirement to actually get those places from being provisional to operational within two years. We definitely work with the sector to understand how they are progressing with regard to the application. What experience is telling us is that at the moment a lot of them are built, or finalised, within the third year. We have actually got a project underway with our state and territory officers at the moment to just be a lot more active with managing the provisional allocations, particularly ones that have dragged on for a bit longer.

Senator SIEWERT—I know you provided this previously, so I am hoping what I am asking is not too much of an impost. Could you provide us with an update about where we are with that list of how many are progressing from their two years to three years if there has been much progress in that?

Ms Robertson—When was the information last provided to you?

Senator SIEWERT—I think we asked around this time last year.

Ms Robertson—I have only been there six months so I am just trying to work out the time frame.

Senator SIEWERT—Across Australia we have been following this issue about where beds are at because there has been a certain amount of dispute about how many beds are being built, except licences are being taken up. There are some states—my home state—which—

Ms Robertson—I know there has been a particular home on the northern New South Wales coast that has been of particular interest in that regard.

Senator SIEWERT—Exactly. So there have been the ones that we have particularly been following but in general we have also been following where those beds are being built.

Senator BOYCE—I am sure they have the energy to find it.

Senator SIEWERT—I think I may have just renewed some of that energy. Could we have that updated as to how many beds are still provisional and the time lag for that; state by state would be appreciated?

Ms Robertson—And you want a time series on that?

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, please.

Senator BOYCE—Do you break that down into anything smaller than state by state?

Senator SIEWERT—I have asked for regions before.

Ms Robertson—Not on a regular basis, no. Obviously because our state and territory offices manage the interaction with the providers on a day-to-day basis, they do it at a global level. But, no, I do not collect that at the central office level.


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