The Morrison government says it will fund 23,000 new packages for older Australians waiting to receive at home care, at a cost of $1.6bn.
Tuesday’s budget increases the number of approved home care packages available over the next four years in response to both the aged care royal commission and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The interim report of the royal commission found the government needed to act urgently to reduce waiting times for older Australians seeking in-home support.
For the past two years, more than 100,000 Australians have been on wait lists for approved home care packages, with tens of thousands entering residential care prematurely as a result.
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The government has been under pressure over its aged care response during the pandemic. There have been more than 670 deaths nationally in aged care facilities, more than 640 of those in Victoria, and older Australians have been left to languish in soiled beds and clothes without proper food and hydration.
The health minister, Greg Hunt, said on Tuesday there would be an extra $81m for additional staff and training, on top of $101.2m the government announced for this purpose in March.
The health budget comprises $467bn in overall spending over four years, $16.5bn of that makes up the emergency response to the pandemic.
The government says it will increase funding for hospitals by $33.6bn over the new five-year national health reform agreement and provide $5.7bn for mental health, including already announced funding to double the number if Medicare-funded psychology sessions from 10 to 20.
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Hunt said the budget would fund the government’s ongoing response to the pandemic and “helps chart the road out”, with aged care “a particular focus”.
Total funding in aged care will be $23.9bn over the forward estimates – an increase of $2.2bn Hunt said – including the $1.6bn for home care packages.
The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said on Tuesday night that aged care was “one of the greatest challenges we face in delivering essential services to Australians”.
He said additional responses and funding would be informed by the final report from the royal commission.
“The government will provide a comprehensive response to the final recommendations following receipt of that report,” he said. “This will involve significant additional investment.”
Tuesday’s budget includes $2.3bn in announced funding for investment in Covid-19 treatments and vaccines and funding for the listing of new drugs on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, including Lynparza for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
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The government will provide $750m in funding for Covid-19 testing, $171m for the extended operation of up