No allied health will just mean more work for nurses and nursing homes

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Thanks so much for the support for our #deathofagedcare campaign from nurses such as Dianna Patrice Maitland and many others from our industry who have contacted us including nursing homes. The common reaction is shock that they can't believe allied health isn't there in the new funding model starting Oct 2022, especially with mandated nursing hours not even starting until October 2023!

And the other reaction has been worried about what will happen to their already high workloads once allied health aren't there anymore. As nursing homes, and nurses working in aged care already know, allied health is well integrated into care and we all support each other to get better outcomes for our residents.

This hasn't always been the case. Many of us remember when allied health wasn't funded in aged care before 2008. Before then physios like me were often just asked to come in every 6 weeks, and review the most severe falls and to initially assess new residents. We had no time for reviews, hands on pain treatment or do exercises and effective falls prevention. We didn't see OTs working in aged care at all. The nursing home and nursing staff in between when we visited had to deal with falls, manage pain and prescribe walkers and wheelchairs etc.

When the ACFI funding started in 2008 this allowed Physios and OTs particularly to be onsite regularly (even if just doing massages at least we were there regularly to review and follow up on falls, prescribe equipment, do exercises, help with resident's mental health etc). The extra funding from pain management also helped nursing homes pay for more nursing hours, as well as other allied health like speech therapy, dietitians, lifestyle co-ordinators, allied health assistants, podiatry and other services.

Not having allied health in nursing homes after October 1st, 2022, will mean we go back to the bad old days of allied health infrequently being there if at all. This will lead to an increased load on nursing homes, aged care nursing and care staff to provide more pain medication, behaviour management, see more falls, and time intensive mobility reviews and prescribing walkers, mattresses, wheelchairs etc.

And where will already far too busy staff find time to do all this extra and specialised work, when mandated nursing hours don't even start until 1st October 2023? This means a whole year of nursing homes and nurses having to deal with extra workload without training and even extra mandated hours. Hospital staff workloads will also increase with more aged care admissions from falls especially.

The current funding plan that starts in October 2022 ending allied health funding will just be handing more work to already over-worked nursing homes, hospitals, nurses and carers. In a COVID affected environment, the load on hospitals and other services will increase.

We need to look after older people and those who look after them better. Nurses, carers, nursing homes, allied health and most importantly the residents, all agree allied health is needed. So did the Royal Commission, the author of the new funding model and the government. Despite this allied health was NOT funded. Nursing homes and pensioners will have to pay and they can't afford it.

Our campaign officially launches on the 1st of October 2021. Together we can stop the #deathofalliedhealth but on the 1st of October when we launch it will only be a year to go. We need to do something NOW before it’s too late. You can do this whatever way you feel best - it doesn't have to be through our campaign. If you're a nursing home let ACSA and LASA know your concern. If you're a nurse or carer let your nursing home and professional association/union know like Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, Australian College of Nursing, and the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation. Allied health you can contact your individual professional association/union as well as groups like AHPA and the Australian Physiotherapy Association and Occupational Therapy Australia and in regional areas especially SARRAH. You might also consider the Health Services Union.

Residents or seniors worried about not getting allied health if you go into nursing homes, you can let your family and the nursing home know or groups that advocate for you like Council on the Ageing, National Seniors, and Older person's advocacy network. You can search facebook for advocacy groups like Aged Care matters and Aged Care reform now.

A lot of those groups know already though. So consider writing to your MP and asking to meet to discuss your concerns. Write a letter to the editor. Contact influential aged care industry magazines like Australian Ageing Agenda and Inside Ageing who are already aware of and have written on the issue already.

Don't assume this is inevitable. It’s not. Government's are there to represent the community's voice. We can change this omission of allied health if politicians see enough public backlash on this.

Allied health needs to be separately funded in the An-acc. Let Greg Hunt and any official wanting to be elected know in whatever way you can. There's an election coming and we all know ageing is going to be a key issue. Tell anyone you can that nurses and nurses homes also need more allied health, not less.

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