Nursing homes in Australia’s major states are struggling to find a replacement for the number of nursing homes closing in their wake.
A new survey by the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that the numbers of nursing home residents in Australia have dropped by more than 5 per cent since the first quarter of 2019.
The figures show the trend has been exacerbated by the closure of more than 300 nursing homes.
The number of such nursing homes in NSW dropped by 4.7 per cent to 1,500.
In Victoria, the number has dropped by 3.9 per cent.
But in the ACT, the nursing home population has increased by nearly 2 per cent in the first four months of 2019, with more than half of the population now living in one.
“In the first three quarters of 2019 there were 5,600 nursing homes with 3,000 residents,” says Dr Richard Pomerantz, chief executive of AIHW.
“We’ve had to find homes for those who have left, or those who are retiring, and so the need for nursing homes has grown.”
He says that many of these nursing homes have seen the number drop because of a “catastrophic” drought in the Western Australian bush, which has reduced demand for home-based care.
“It has caused the demand for nursing home accommodation to decrease in the region, and in the area of the ACT,” he says.
But Dr Pomeranz says there is hope for the ACT and its surrounding regions.
“The fact that we are seeing nursing homes and other residential accommodation in the state and other parts of the country that are able to maintain their occupancy, particularly in the warmer years, is good news,” he said.
“There are lots of other opportunities for this to continue to be a viable option.”
Dr Pomerathan says the current supply of nursing beds in the country is adequate, with about 4.6 million beds in Australian homes.
“Nursing homes are really good in that they are able in some instances to provide some very special care and that’s the reason they have been able to do so,” he explained.
“But we’ve also had to rely on the fact that our nursing homes can only provide so much.”
“So it’s a balancing act where you’ve got people who are being housed and people who aren’t being housed.
So it’s not just the capacity, it’s the quality of care that you need.”
Aboriginal care and residential care is an issue facing the states and territories, with the ACT having the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATIS) people aged 65 and over in the nation.
Dr Pombert says the situation is not just an issue for nursing houses.
“If you’re a resident of a nursing home or residential care facility, you’re also contributing to the problem.
You’re contributing to a problem in your community,” he explains.”
So when you see the closure, you know that it’s affecting the communities you live in.”
Dr Richard Pomberg says the ABC’s report shows the need to look at more comprehensive measures to help improve the nursing homes that exist in the community.
“People are very keen on a more holistic approach to how we can support Aboriginal and other Torres Strait Islanders in a nursing care setting,” he told ABC Radio Canberra.
“They don’t want a nursing facility to just be a place to sit in a chair and get a cup of tea.”
He said the government was looking at the ways in which the ACT can support the communities that are in the care of nursing facilities.
“What we need to do is look at how we might make that community-based community care more attractive to people and allow more people to come in,” he added.