Nursing homes to receive bonus to house elderly WA hospital patients
Aged care providers will receive cash grants worth up to $1825 to take elderly patients fit for medical discharge out of hospital and into “respite” care in a bid to free up beds in the strained public health system.
A tender for the scheme lay out plans to reduce “bed blockages” caused by older patients becoming unnecessarily trapped in public hospitals as they wait for a permanent placement in a residential aged care facility.
The $2.9 million pilot would also allow participating hospital patients to “try before you buy” in a nursing home, exposing them to life in aged care without locking them into a long-term agreement.
It is the latest bid to ease the significant and growing burden WA’s ageing population has placed on public hospitals and comes with WA Health already trialling virtual consultations for aged care residents who fall ill to reduce unnecessary emergency department presentations.
“The respite pilot gives older patients the opportunity to leave hospital sooner,” the tender document reads.
“This is important, because hospitals are not the safest place for older people who do not need hospital care, and every extra day spent in hospital increases the risks to their health.
“In some circumstances, the pilot will provide patients and their families or carers with the opportunity to try living in an aged care home prior to making a decision to live there permanently.”
The trial will run from next month until mid-2024 and allows approved aged care providers to register to take part in the program, which requires a declaration that they will not reduce their respite offering to the broader community as a result of accepting hospital patients.
The measure was among a suite of initiatives designed to reduce pressure on emergency departments announced by the McGowan Government as part of the mid-year review in December but the recently released tender outlines for the first time how the scheme will work.
Approved aged care providers will receive a $1575 payment for every patient they accept directly out of hospital for a minimum respite stay of 10 days, with that figure rising to $1825 to cover additional fees if the resident is subsequently discharged into another facility.
If patients stay longer than 28 days, the aged care provider will be permitted to submit an additional claim for $1575 for every month they house a former hospital patient.
Elderly hospital patients will not be moved into an aged care facility against their wishes. To be eligible, they must be unable to safely return home and already be on the waiting list for a residential placement.
They will also be required to cover their own respite costs, although the service is heavily subsidised by the Commonwealth Government for up to 63 days per year.
“During a respite stay, clients will be provided with the same quality care and support services as our permanent residents and welcomed into our community,” the tender said.
“In addition, the respite service provider will support clients with administrative support to transition to permanent residential aged care.
“This may include, for example, supporting the client or their family to identify appropriate vacancies or contact facilities, supporting the client to fill out forms or contact Centrelink.”
Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said she was committed to ensuring West Australians could access the care most appropriate for their individual needs.
“That means when patients are medically fit for discharge but lack the supports required to leave hospital, we are willing to work with the Federal Government and co-fund alternative solutions,” Ms Sanderson said.
“Helping long stay patients find more suitable accommodation and care will not only lead to better outcomes for the patient, but it will also address a significant cause of bed block and is one part of our $452.7 million investment into addressing pressure on our emergency departments.”