Government cutbacks are being blamed for crippling the Fraser Coast's aged care sector.
Government cutbacks are being blamed for crippling the Fraser Coast's aged care sector. THINKSTOCK

Govt cuts hurting Fraser aged care

AGED care nurses on the Fraser Coast face a job where they may be punched or spat on, with wages often up to $15,000 less than what they could earn in a hospital.

Torbay Retirement Villages chief executive Philip Parry believes many of those nurses are now also staring down job cuts and reduced hours, in an industry that is facing ever-increasing costs and unrealistic government subsidies.

Mr Parry is in Adelaide for a national government-led conference on aged care over the next two days, looking for answers for better care for the frail aged and the workforce that looks after them.

His business, which has 165 aged care places and 159 independent living units, has this year been forced to turn to out-of-town suppliers in an effort to keep their costs down as the Federal Government attempts to clawback $500 million from the industry this financial year.

Torbay now saves $9000 a year by using a central bread supplier and also recently saved $12,000 on three new company vehicles for the first time bought in Brisbane.

It comes less than a month after RSL Care's Baycrest aged care home made the move from a Kawungan chemist to a Brisbane-based medication supplier.

Mr Parry blames a clawback in government subsidies for the struggling state of the aged care industry and the move to centralised suppliers.

He estimates changes to the aged care funding system that went into effect at the start of last month will cost Torbay about $140,000 and its other facility Parklands about $70,000 this financial year.

"We're claiming the maximum amount we can," he said.

The new funding model indicates that subsidies will increase by a historic growth rate of 2%-3% each year.

Mr Parry labelled the change a monumental error of judgement and said it did not account for an increasingly frail population moving into aged care.

"What the department has failed to assess properly is the impact of community care packages that are keeping people in their home longer," he said.

It means more people moving into aged care homes require a higher level of specialised and expensive care.

Mr Parry said frailty in the aged care sector was actually growing by 7%, not the 2-3% indicated by the Department of Health and Ageing.

"If the minister does not reverse his decision, cuts to staffing levels and services to residents will be inevitable," he said.

Mr Parry said Torbay made the decision not to pass an increase in subsidies on to staff wages last year and instead kept award wages.

"Any aged care facility that did raise wage rates is now facing a bleak future," he said.

MP Mark Butler has asked the department for a monthly meeting of aged care professionals to monitor the impact of the subsidy changes.

Visit health.gov.au for more information on the changed subsidies.