The Department of Health has required state and territory governments to demonstrate how they will improve the performance of their Aged Care Assessment Teams amid concerns over assessment delays.
Department officials told a Senate estimates hearing states were being held accountable for failures to meet key performance targets as part of agreements with the Commonwealth to deliver comprehensive assessments for older people.
The department revealed some states were taking up to three months to complete 80 per cent of assessments referred by My Aged Care, with Queensland and Tasmania singled out as among the worst-performing jurisdictions.
Three states – Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia – met a deadline in late May to submit plans for lifting their performance. The department was awaiting responses from the other jurisdictions, it said.
“We have identified areas of concern. Some states are more timely than others, and so we have taken a much stronger action with those states,” Fiona Buffinton, first assistant secretary aged care access and quality, told the hearing on 30 May.
The department denied inadequate resourcing from the Commonwealth was to blame for the assessment delays and said it was examining the workforce numbers and technology used by ACAT teams across the country.
“It is highly variable the technology that ACAT teams are using. Some are using iPads and an application that can reduce the time for each assessment by 30 minutes and some regions are using very old technology,” said Ms Buffinton.
She said state governments were being asked to focus on the timeliness of assessments, staff education and the efficiency of systems.
The consistency of ACAT performance across different regions within a state could also be improved, Ms Buffinton said.
Single assessment program
On the question of whether the government would integrate ACATs with RASs from mid-2020, the department said there was currently no government commitment to introduce a single assessment service.
The department sought to make a distinction between the government’s 2015 budget announcement to integrate the Commonwealth Home Support Program and home care packages and the creation of a single assessment service.
It said it was continuing to consult with stakeholders and would be releasing a discussion paper on the next stage of home care reform within the next month.
Related AAA coverage: Questions raised over wait for aged care assessment
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