Are the government’s aged care access reforms achievable?

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that aged care is in desperate need of reform.

As much as most Australians recognise that, meaningful reforms will be impossible without the injection of 25,000 new employees into the industry’s workforce.

That’s the stark reality the country is faced with, according to Department of Health documents.

Released last week as part of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the documents show that the department’s calculations are forecasting a shortfall of registered nurses (RN) and nurse practitioners (NP) in the order of 11,758 for the 2023-24 financial year and another 12,836in 2024-25, for a total of 24,594.

In addition, the shortfall in the number of Personal Care Workers (PCWs), is also set to blow out, with the documents showing a gap of 13,679 in 2023-24 and 26,902 in 2024-25.

These shortfalls are at odds with the Albanese government’s ability to honour its aged care reforms, which will require aged care homes to have a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day from July, and mandate a minimum 200 care minutes per resident each day from October.

The aged care sector has been under pressure for some years now, with the situation exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

However, other factors have also been involved. One of the most significant of those is a phenomenon known as ‘hospital exit block’.

Hospital exit blocks occur when patients who are eligible and safe for release cannot be discharged because they are unable to access aged care services. The issue was highlighted in a report published last month by the Australian Medical Association.

The report says the phenomenon is “a symptom of a healthcare system that is struggling to meet community demand for health and social services”.

The most common reasons for exit blocks are patients waiting for appropriate aged care (such as a place in a residential aged care facility or a home-care package at the right level), or for disability care.

In theory, the government’s reforms will go a long way towards addressing these blocks, but the FOI documents suggest that achieving them within the slated time frame will be next to impossible.

One development that should help to close the workforce gap has been a 15 per cent pay rise for aged care workers, awarded last year by the Fair Work Commission.

The likely impact of that pay rise, an increase in aged care workforce numbers, was not factored into the calculations made in the released document.

According to a spokesperson for aged care minister Anika Wells, there are signs already of the gap closing, with the department’s most recent figures indicating the gap had shrunk by more than 3000 since November.

That’s good news, but such a rate of improvement would mean the government’s July target will not be attainable across the entire industry.

The Health Department has acknowledged this, with a department spokesperson announcing that 5 per cent of facilities, mainly in regional and remote areas, would be eligible for a 12-month exemption from the 24/7 requirement to give them more time to transition.

It seems that, just as access to aged care is a waiting game for individuals, an aged care overhaul is a waiting game for the entire industry.

Do you have a family member in, or waiting for access to, aged care? What sort of experiences have you had? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Aged care advocates push for wealthy to pay more

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. There are millions of taxpayers dollars being wasted on the Aged Care Sector. Home care providers are the main ones reaping it in. Some have entrance and exit fees, charge a service fee to purchase aids out of our funds, charge personal care workers to us at $70 ph and pay them $39. If they need to supply an O/T person for an assessment, that’s around $400-$700 a time. The Government makes it difficult as they ask for too many O/T reports. ( If I need a walking frame. blind Freddie can see that without a $400 O/T report.)
    Take a look at the prices of aids from suppliers of wheelchairs, walking frames and home aids and compare them to the same thing on EBAY.A bottom wiper on EBAY is $18 and on one supplier around $50. A electric can opener EBAY $29 supplier $50+. Home care providers also get between 10-15% kick back from their ” Preferred suppliers”. If all these hidden costs we used for Aged people the Govt. would save millions!!!
    All Governments have had time to prepare for us oldies living longer. Don’t stand there and say “Where did all these old people come from all of a sudden?”
    In Nursing Homes, it is obvious that the care for aged is very people oriented and many staff are required and that will increase. Currently 66% of all Nursing Homes are running at a loss and that cannot go on for long.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up, Andrew. We need a maximum effort across the community to ensure as few people as possible require aged care while the mess gets resolved. Deferral by posting press releases of future solutions won’t do this.
    We need a major community and government effort to sustain people in their pre-dependent stage for as long as possible. One approach would be more advice on how to address this. This would support an immediate response we can all contribute to in managing the aged care crisis.
    We also need a National Longevity Strategy to put together a framework to make the best of increasing longevity, We are still just playing with the pieces.

  3. Until the Agedcare home Companies are visible in their spending no one will ever believe these paper losses such as the $27.00 a day mentioned and put out there by the Govt and the sector.
    As a selfed retiree who is gradually slipping into pension range my govt means test (tax)was $50 a day but is now down to $35.00 a day.
    The present system is not fit for purpose and the reforms won’t work either.
    Everyone is well meaning but simple things like just in time purchasing just don’t work in the West anymore.
    Always out of stock from apple juice to incontinence pads.
    Drives me nuts.

- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -