AMA opposes independent contractors in aged care

Australian Medical Association

The AMA has told the Productivity Commission that it opposes use of independent contractors in aged care because it erodes quality of care and such employment is not subject to standards and accountability.

The AMA is opposed to independent contractors, including through online platforms, providing nursing care and personal care in residential aged care and in home care.

The AMA in a submission to the Productivity Commission’s enquiry into indirect employment in aged care stressed that overreliance on independent contractors is not conducive to continuity of care.

Furthermore, there is an obvious lack of transparency in the engagement with consumers and the lack of accountability because these independent contractors and online platforms linking consumers to carers are not required to comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards.

The AMA’s submission says that by continuing to allow independent contractors’ engagement and continuing to rely on their services to provide surge workforce during the pandemic, the government is leaving an entire segment of aged care workforce outside any regulation or any accountability.

The AMA believes that any care stripped of accountability will be detrimental not just to older people receiving aged care services, but also to the employees in the sector, who are forced to rely on insecure, low wages that are then further reduced by the intermediaries who connect them to the clients.

The AMA questioned the reasoning behind the Federal Government tasking the Productivity Commission with conducting an enquiry into aged care employment a year after the Aged Care Royal Commission’s Final Report.

The Aged Care Royal Commission, which completed its work in 2021 and provided 148 recommendations, looked specifically at indirect employment in aged care and found that “indirect employment erodes the quality of care, accountability for the care provided and conditions for the workforce”.

The Royal Commission then provided a specific recommendation that aged care providers should preference direct employment and that it should be the condition for their accreditation.

The Federal Government didn’t accept this recommendation and referred it to the Productivity Commission for examination.

The AMA believes there are more important areas of reform required following the Royal Commission that the Productivity Commission could have been tasked to inquire into to ensure quality of care, dignity and safety for older Australians.

Those areas include gaps in medical care older Australians receive, sufficiency of funding provided to GPs to continue to care for their patients in aged care, intersections between aged care, primary care and the hospital system, and how those three care components influence each other.

The AMA submission can be viewed here:

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