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Catholic Health says churches 'squeezed out of' aged care

According to a report in The Australian today, Catholic Health Australia (CHA) has accused the Federal Government of "squeezing church and charitable groups out of aged care" in favour of commercial operators driven by profit.

Days after the Salvation Army bowed to financial pressures and put 15 aged care centres up for auction, the peak Catholic lobby group has warned members that the Government is allowing private operators to expand at the expense of church and charitable missions.

In a confidential memo, CHA CEO Francis Sullivan pointed out that commercial providers had received 54% of new nursing homes bed allocations awarded by the Government last year.

"While most for-profit providers may have good intentions in delivering aged care, their prime focus will always be making a profit," the memo said. "The church and charitable sector does not have access to the capital markets which may be attractive to government, but there can be no doubt that our motives are dominated by a desire to deliver high-quality care."

A breakdown of new beds allocated since the Howard Government reformed aged care in 1997 reveals that while the Government's market share is in decline, the private sector is expanding and church and charitable provision of residential aged care holds steady, despite successive applications for new beds.

The Hogan review of residential care will recommend further changes aimed at expediting the expansion of the for-profit sector.

Mr Sullivan said: "There seems to be a very worrying policy direction aimed at getting investor-owned companies to run the aged care program, with the Government throwing its weight behind the for-profit sector and capital equity markets to solve the problem."

Churches 'squeezed out of' aged care (The Australian 18/2/04)

Catholic Health supports fair go for hostel residents (CathNews 13/2/04)
Aged Care Alliance calls for Govt to release funding report (ABC Radio AM 11/2/04)
Warning for elderly as Salvos sell (The Age 12/2/04)
Uniting Church calls for government funds to keep aged facilities (Insights 12/2/04)
Catholic Health Australia | Canberra Update

18 Feb 2004