Sydney, Nov 6: The Australian Council of Deans of Health Sciences (ACDHS) is sounding the alarm regarding a projected shortage of allied health workers in aged care as the Australian population continues to grow and age.
A newly commissioned model by ACDHS offers policymakers the ability to assess how various policy configurations would impact the demand for allied health workers in the coming years.
Presently, elderly Australians in aged care receive an average of only eight minutes of allied health care per day.
In contrast, the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has recommended raising this to 22 minutes daily, in line with international standards.
To attain the 22-minute daily target by 2033, Australia would need to train an additional 25,000 allied health professionals.
Given the high demand, logistical challenges in the supply chain, and the substantial lead time required to increase the number of fully qualified allied health professionals, the training process must commence promptly.
Professor Terry Haines, Deputy Chair of ACDHS, asserts that it’s high time for a national conversation regarding the levels of allied health care elderly Australians and their loved ones can expect in their later years.
He highlights that the current amount of allied health care provided in aged care facilities falls significantly short of the international benchmark of 22 minutes a day cited by the Royal Commission.
Moreover, Professor Haines suggests that we should consider whether even exceeding this benchmark could yield even more favourable outcomes and enhanced efficiencies in Australia’s health and aged care sectors.
Greater levels of allied health care have been associated with improved nutrition, reduced incidents of falls and injuries, and better health and well-being for older Australians.
He also emphasizes that if we were to aim for 30 minutes of allied health care daily, the task would be immense, requiring the training of an additional 38,000 allied health professionals over the next decade to cater to the aged care sector.
Professor Haines stresses the importance of planning, preparation, and collaboration with the government to address this significant challenge.
ACDHS is urging the government to declare its stance on backing the Royal Commission’s recommendation of 22 minutes of daily allied health care.
“If the government is not inclined to support this benchmark,” Professor Haines adds, “they must be prepared to invest in research to determine the appropriate level of allied health care in aged care, ensuring that residents receive adequate care and that the broader healthcare system isn’t unduly burdened.”
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