June 24, 2015
Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (09:57): I appreciate the opportunity to raise concerns on behalf of the Orbost Regional Health service in relation to the sustainability of the current funding models for aged care as part of the multipurpose service. It is one of the excellent multipurpose services in Victoria and operates under quite a unique funding model which was developed in the 1990s to provide flexibility for rural health services. These services are funded per bed per day regardless of whether there is actually someone in that bed or not, which is a different funding model that would otherwise apply to a stand-alone residential aged-care service.
Orbost Regional Health is a highly valued and respected service provider in the east Gippsland community. It has a highly capable staff and highly capable board members, who provide an extraordinary diversity of services to a rural and remote community. The viability of the aged-care service as part of the Orbost Regional Health service is critical to the future of the community and the broader east Gippsland region. Giving older east Gippslanders the opportunity to receive care if and when they need it in their own community is of fundamental importance.
The Orbost Regional Health service has written to me explaining its concerns about the current funding arrangements, which are historic in their nature and have been around for about 20 years. As the letter from Orbost Regional Health service explains:
Multipurpose Health Services empower rural communities to take care of their health. The multipurpose service model is perfectly designed to match our unique circumstances of delivering care to isolated rural communities whilst listening to our communities and designing and delivering care that responds to our community needs.
Orbost Regional Health indicates that the funding rates for residential aged care delivered by the multipurpose health service have not been altered or reviewed since their inception more than 20 years ago and no longer represent current-day costs of care, despite considerable growth in the activity funding rates that apply to other residential aged care providers.
I am pleased to say that the minister is actively engaged with the sector and with my office on this issue and is listening to the concerns of the broader community. The Australian government has noted the concerns of the rural and remote providers and has asked the independent Aged Care Financing Authority to provide advice to government on issues affecting the financial performance of rural and remote providers by 16 December this year. ACFA will be consulting with the sector, and the MPS providers will be able to raise their concerns with ACFA as part of this process.
I note the presence of the member for Indi. She has raised similar concerns in relation to the multipurpose services in her electorate. It is of concern to a small number of communities, but they are important communities in our rural and regional environments of Victoria. I am looking forward to continuing to work constructively with the minister, who, I must emphasise, has been actively engaged with my office on the issue and is very concerned to make sure that the viability of these services continues into the future. Orbost Regional Health is very keen to work with me and the government to make sure that we can achieve an outcome that provides for the future viability of aged care in communities like far east Gippsland.