Scandalous misuse of hospital beds

One would think that giving the "blockers" absolute priority to welfare housing would be an obvious step forward. But bureaucracy could thwart even that. Why does each client have to have a bureaucratic "plan"? Getting them into accomodations should be a first step, not a last step. Planning is all very well but when it leads to months of waste of precious resources it is idiocy. But idiocy is to be expected of Left and centrist governments

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten has launched an ambitious bid to free disabled people waiting an average of five months in hospital despite being medically ready for discharge, taking up more than a thousand sick beds unnecessarily and costing taxpayers up to $1bn each year.

Mr Shorten has challenged his agency to respond to disabled people within four days once alerted that they were ready to be discharged from hospital.

He also revealed plans to hire more NDIS staff to be stationed in hospitals and giving them the authority to make faster “on the spot” decisions to fast-track discharges.

Currently, NDIS participants are waiting 160 days on average for the National Disability ­Insurance Agency to get them out of hospitals, even though they have been deemed fit to leave.

Mr Shorten pointed to possible reasons behind the delays including bureaucracy or lack of appropriate accommodation.

The Australian has obtained exclusive details of the proposed Hospital Discharge Operational Plan, which shows that, of the 2328 NDIS participants in hospital, 1384 were medically ready for discharge.

Mr Shorten said the current wait times were “unacceptable” and costing the hospital system up to $3m a day. “If there’s 1500 people on average every night in Australia in a hospital when they could be in medium term or long-term accommodation elsewhere, if each person is costing north of $2000 a night for care that means every night in Australia $3m ticks over,” he said.

Of those NDIS participants ready for discharge, 451 were in NSW, 276 in Victoria, 258 in Queensland and 177 in WA. Most, or 735, had an NDIS interim plan while the other 649 were yet to receive one.

The Hospital Discharge plan is aimed at pressuring the NDIS into improving outcomes for disabled Australians, with Mr Shorten and his state counterparts setting a number of targets to fast-track the transfer of NDIS participants out of hospitals.

The targets include contacting a participant within four days of the agency being made aware they are medically fit to be discharged and getting their NDIS plan in place within 30 days, down from the current average of 80 days.

Mr Shorten said the targets and accompanying reporting framework would help reveal what was causing the long discharge delays.

“We’re going to set some goals,” he said. “Whether they’re realistic or not remains to be seen. These goals, to use a metaphor, are like a dye you might put in an MRI scan. I’m not saying we’ll achieve this overnight, or even in a year, but let’s find out where the obstacles are.

“Is it clunky bureaucracy? Is it a lack of long-term accommodation? Is it a lack of paid care and support teams within the community? Is it poor communication between hospitals and other departments? It could be all of the above, but let’s find out.”

Mr Shorten said the reporting framework, which would measure outcomes against the new targets, was about “keeping the system honest”.

“This data is not about blaming the states or feds, let’s just deal with the truth,” he said.

“The truth will show us what we’re not doing right.”

The operational plan would increase the number of Health Liaison Officers – which are NDIS staff offered to hospitals to assist their discharge teams – by more than 20 per cent by the end of September.

This will increase the number of HLOs from 33 to 40, with the aim of growing the pool of such staff over time.

NDIS hospital teams will also receive additional training and the authority to make decisions about home and living plan variations for participants on the spot.

Mr Shorten said the plan and its bold targets were intended to push the agency.

“I’ve challenged the agency to explain why we can’t achieve these standards,” he said.

“There may be good reasons but I want to understand why. It’s not good enough to shrug our shoulders and say ‘too hard’.”

Work is also being done between the Commonwealth and the states to ensure that, where a participant is not eligible for specialist disability accommodation, timely access to social housing can be sourced.

Mr Shorten said that while he believed there were vacancies in disability accommodation in some areas, he was worried that in places such as Tasmania and regional Australia the stock of places was “insufficient”.

Mr Shorten said the plan was aimed at improving good will not only between Australians with disabilities and the agency, but between the Commonwealth and states as well.

However, he maintained states and territories needed to do more in supporting disabled Australians. “I still think states aren’t paying enough towards NDIS,” he said.


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