Only 30 per cent of permanent aged care residents had seen a medical specialist in 2016-17, half the rate of older people living at home, found a discussion paper written by staff of the royal commission released last Friday.
Its preliminary data also found four times as many residents of these facilities hadn’t seen a general practitioner as older people living in the community, Peter Gray, QC, senior counsel assisting the commission said in his opening address on Monday.
“The evidence is clear that while Australia prides itself on having a universal health care scheme, aged care recipients are often denied practical access to this health care,” Mr Gray said.
He said 46 per cent of GPs are not delivering services to aged care residents. This suggested many residents changed their doctor when they were admitted to care.
When it came to specialists, the data painted a picture of very poor access.
“The fact that, in 2016-17, only 32 per cent of aged care residents saw a specialist is of enormous concern,” Mr Gray said. “Remember that these people are the most vulnerable … and have the most complex chronic conditions. That is why they need residential care.”
Governments should fund services to provide specialist health services to people living in aged care facilities, the commission heard.
In the issues paper, the commissioners ask “how could we ensure that any redesign of the aged care system makes it simpler for older people to find and receive the care and supports that they need?”
They are asking the public for feedback on a new model which would include: