The recent announcement of a Senate Select Committee into Health brought forth a number of issues pertaining to the Australian health sector – with several centred on aged care.
Multiple organisations published releases for the committee, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA). The publication detailed how greater interaction between elements of both the aged care and health care systems was required, given the growing complexity of health requirements for older Australians.
"Australians are living longer and delaying the move into residential aged care. As a result, residents are now older, frailer and have more complex health care needs than in the past," the AMA report explained.
Progressing with change
Adapting to the changes was identified by AMA as a primary objective, specifically by way of introducing an element of medical care into aged care facilities. Essentially, the aim would be to establish medical treatment options within residential facilities themselves, to avoid having to send residents to hospitals.
In turn, this could avoid delays in both sourcing treatment for the elderly and returning them to aged care facilities. Of course, providers would need to change significantly to facilitate the new mode of operations.
The need for onsite care
The most recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report (published in 2013) uncovered interesting statistics about hospital admissions. This study was performed from 2008-2009, and found that almost 10 per cent of 1.1 million elderly hospital admissions were from people already living in aged care facilities.
In addition, 3 per cent of hospital stays for older people concluded with the patient being admitted into residential aged care.
Hospital admissions should be minimised, both to avoid the stress placed on aged care residents already in a vulnerable state and to relieve pressure on the health sector. Relocating hospital care for older people to aged care facilities appears to offer the most effective solution.
Of course, as with any new mode of operations there are barriers facing such an overhaul. For example, medical professionals would need to increase the number of visits to aged care facilities. This brings up issues such as equipment transportation, parking spaces, security access and collaboration with onsite staff to discuss the symptoms.
There's also the lack of medical rooms within aged care facilities, something that would need to be considered for privacy.
Aged care can make this transition, however, and many of the challenges with facilities can be addressed through standard redevelopments in the near future. Of course, with a 2012 AMA survey finding only 21 per cent of general practitioners in Australia make regular trips to facilities, obstacles remain.