Reduced home care staff hours ‘potentially unsustainable’

Average staff hours per home care client have dropped to “potentially unsustainable levels”, according to a key financial report.

Average staff hours per home care client have reduced to “potentially unsustainable levels”, according to a key financial report.

Grant Corderoy

The latest StewartBrown Aged Care Financial Performance Survey, released this month, shows that average hours have dropped to less than six hours per client over a week.

StewartBrown says while the financial impact of COVID-19 hasn’t  affected the December 2019 indicators, the pandemic  will heavily influence the results for subsequent quarters until the virus stabilises and the economy returns to normal.

The report notes the government’s  announcement of additional funding for staff retention but warns it may not be enough to cover the  additional operational and regulatory burden involved in protecting aged care recipients from coronavirus.

Senior partner Grant Corderoy says COVID-19 represents a major challenge for home care providers, who are likely to see a decrease in demand for services by consumers who are self-isolating, coupled with loss of workers through illness, reluctance to attend people’s homes and increased childcare demands.

“We’re going to have that double sword of consumers wanting less hours and providers having less staffing hours they can provide,” he told Community Care Review.

Slight improvements in operating results

Source: Stewart Brown

The report, based on data from 36,529 home care packages for the six months ending  December 31, shows while revenue per client decreased by 6.1 per cent, operating profit was up by $1.40 compared to 2018.

Direct service costs decreased by $4.29 and staff hours per week reduced by 0.9 hours per client to an average of 5.8 per week.

“Whilst home care operating results were at a slightly improved level, revenue per client day has reduced and, importantly, average staff hours per client have reduced to potentially unstainable levels,” the report says.

“The mix between appropriate staffing and revenue will dictate the ongoing financial performance of the home care sector.”

Stewart Brown warns however that the improvement in financial performance may be the result of decreased staff hours and other reduced costs rather than an increased cash flow.

“Whether this is sustainable is open to conjecture,” the report says.

Mr Corderoy says that in the last two years, hours of direct home care have dropped by one and a half hours a week and for the  top performing 25 per cent of providers hours have dropped even more from 8.8 to 6.5.

Mr Corderoy says it’s now reached the point where providers need to up their hours of care to compensate for declining daily revenue per client.

“In other words providers are going to have to increase the number of hours, unless they increase what they’re charging” he said. “What we’re seeing is that providers now can’t be reducing their hours any more”.

Unspent funds climb towards $8,00m

Unspent funds increased by about $1,078 per client to $7,904 per client, leaving more than $800 million sitting unused in coffers and making it an ongoing area of concern for home care providers.

“The biggest single issue in relation to Home Care Packages remains in relation to the level of unspent funds,”  the report says.

“This continued growth in unspent funds, and many probable instances of their use for capital-related expenditure for care recipients is not sustainable. “

However Steward Brown says the recently announced changes to subsidy payments “will largely address the unspent funds concerns in this regard” the cash flow implications of the proposed reforms will need consideration.

“In-home care requires the redistribution of unused funds which are not being fully utilised in addition to the ongoing issue of more funding packages to meet consumer need,” the report concludes.

“Service revenue must improve to ensure that staffing hours per care recipient also increase to meet the ongoing care needs.”

Tags: aged-care-financial-performance-survey, home-caer, stewartbrown, unspent-funds,

3 thoughts on “Reduced home care staff hours ‘potentially unsustainable’

  1. Perhaps if the Providers allowed us to know what we could spend our funds on or agree to be less hostile to our requests for much needed items in our homes, more funds would have been spent. They insult us by , demanding OT decisions for simple ridiculous things, having to get letters of permission from Therapists for a weighted blanket, letter from a Dieticians to say you need a juicer. All of this when you are sick and home bound.

    Money wouldn’t have accumulated and us old people would not have to go begging to some 25 yr old telling us what we can have and if we challenge, we feel her wrath.. Right now it’s a totally demeaning way to get your care needs. The stress this has caused so many of us, has near wrecked us and us lucky few fled to Self Manage although not perfect.

    As older people we feel Carers do not have adequate training or the right background to be allowed into the industry. The high fees $61 an hour for someone to do a half job cleaning is disgraceful. My home was never filthier until I found out I could get an outside service to really clean, to move something to vacuum under it….not wash the walls etc. .

    None of the Carers want to do basic cleans, I think many of the Carers should be able to cook. So many clients are on particular types of diets. One could hire a chef on $61 an hour.You can’t order that special food in and I feel this is a real gaping hole. I find it ridiculous that no one can cook real food. Have had dreadful experiences here, special allergy free meals, bed bound, and Carers not even knowing the names of veges,.

  2. Very well said, Nia.
    I feel that my mother, has had similar experiences. In addition, even when OT agrees to certain equipment or services, it may then take up to 6 weeks or more to actually receive the goods or services.
    More flexibility is needed to enable those who wish to self manage to do so effectively.

  3. You do realize that many of these carers get a lot less than $61 per hour. They get from $22-30 per hour.

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