The pot is about to boil over in the sensitive area of aged care — but no-one from the Government (or the Opposition, for that matter) appears to be watching.
The politics of Santo Santoro’s demise aside, he was an excellent minister. He worked harder than his predecessors, canvassed exhaustively with all stakeholders, invited new and fresh ideas, and seemed to view the portfolio as one that deserved his best efforts –not just a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
The aged-care, funding package announced in February, however, had two major problems. As a supposed response to the Hogan Review and the woefully deficient capital-funding mechanisms for providing the thousands of nursing home beds Australia is going to need in the near future, the solution — $3.60 extra per resident per day — was a joke.
Some hard questions need to be asked of the financial modelers. Specifically, the package actually reduced funding for low-care (hostel) providers, the bulk of whom are church and charitable organisations. With an election in the offing, some of the largest churches and charities in Australia are realising that the new funding package provides them with a tiny increase for their nursing homes and a net loss in many of their hostels.
Santoro kept a lid on this while he attempted to find a solution — the industry trusted him to do so, but its patience has worn very thin. For now, there is an information vacuum in the Government and Opposition while the sector waits anxiously to see what happens next.