Federal Government under pressure to repay state taxpayers for NDIS delays
The Federal Government is coming under pressure to reimburse South Australian taxpayers for the cost of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) clients who have been stuck in the state’s hospitals for months.
- More than 110 people are in SA hospitals waiting for NDIS plans
- That number has tripled in the past year
- There are calls for the Federal Government to reimburse the state for the hospital costs
The ABC understands more than 110 people are currently occupying hospital beds throughout the state, waiting for their NDIS plan to be approved.
South Australia’s Health Minister Stephen Wade said some of those people had been waiting for more than a year.
One client, Mandy Jamieson, 59, has already spent more than seven months in hospital awaiting her plan.
She wants funding for a carer for three hours a day, which she has had for the past seven years.
Without this, she feared she could be forced into an aged care facility well before her time.
“My mental health has gone downhill so much, I find I’m losing my temper over the slightest little thing, I just want to be able to go home with the support I need,” Ms Jamieson said.
“The health system is so backed up and yet you’ve got over 100 people sitting in hospital beds waiting NDIS approval.
“I’ve been here seven months, and I’m one of the ones who’ve been here the least longest, others have been here nearly a year, not in the repat but taking up a hospital bed because they’re waiting on stupid things that the NDIS is just dragging their feet about.”
She was injured in two separate workplace accidents, one in 2008 which damaged both of her shoulders and a fall a few years later which crushed her spine.
For the past seven years she has lived at home with those injuries, with WorkCover SA funding a carer for three hours a day.
Stuck in the Repatriation Hospital for seven months, Mandy Jamieson said she needed a carer at home for a few hours a day. (ABC News: Claire Campbell)
However, in June last year her funding ended due to legislation changes, and she has been in hospital waiting for NDIS approval since.
Ms Jamieson told the ABC she had been knocked back from NDIS approval twice because she was told her injuries were not “permanent”.
“I just don’t understand that,” she said.
“I had a permanent assessment done by WorkCover that showed I had a whole person impairment of nearly 50 per cent, I’m stuck in a wheelchair [and] I can’t do very much for myself at all.
“My only option is if NDIS don’t approve my claim, is to go into a nursing home at 59 years of age, I don’t want that to happen, I want to be able to go home.”
Ms Jamieson said all the modifications had already been made to her home and all she was seeking through the NDIS was funding for a carer to help her to shower, dress and look after herself.
Until her plan is approved, Ms Jamieson said she had no choice but to live in a hospital room at the newly reopened Repatriation General Hospital.
The ABC understands at least half of the 20 beds that were reopened at the site to assist with overcrowding in the state’s other hospitals were filled with people waiting for approval or modifications to their NDIS plans.
Triple the NDIS patients in hospital in one year
Mr Wade said it was “completely unacceptable” and the number of NDIS patients in hospitals had tripled in a year.
“We’ve got some people who have been in hospital for more than a year beyond their medical treatment because they’re waiting for NDIS — it’s not just a waste of money, it’s a waste of people’s time and lives,” he said.
“I’d certainly say to my Commonwealth colleagues — it’s your responsibility to provide disability support services, if your failure to provide those services is causing discharge delay, people staying in hospital unnecessarily, we need to share the responsibility.”
He said the State Government and Federal Government were working together to find solutions, but conceded it had been a slow process.
“I must admit we’re yet to see the numbers come down,” he said.
“One of the significant problems we have is we’re diverting nurses and occupational therapists to do plans for people that they hardly know and a hospital-based discharge doesn’t fit [the] NDIS model.”
More than 100 South Australians are waiting in hospital beds for their NDIS plans. (Reuters: Enrique Castro-Mendivil)
Calls for Federal Government to foot the bill
South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association [SASMOA] spokesperson Bernadette Mulholland called on the Federal Government to reimburse the state for the financial burden the long hospital stays were creating.
“One of the real concerns is there seems to be no improvement to long waits for NDIS patients in their hospital beds,” she said.
“So we’re seeing overcrowding within our system, not through any fault of the NDIS patients, but because the Federal Government doesn’t seem to have got their act together to provide the services that the NDIS need.
“They need to meet some of the costs that are experienced by the state in regards to these long stay waits in the hospital system.
“It’s unfair on the NDIS patients, it’s unfair on the hospital system and it’s unfair on the community.”
Opposition human services spokesperson Nat Cook echoed the union’s calls for financial compensation.
“We’ve actually got people stuck in hospital because of a wheelchair or a couple of carers being needed, are you joking?” she said.
“It’s a false economy to keep people in hospital where beds are costing thousands of dollars a day and there’s massive demand for those beds.
“It’s ridiculous how many people are just being parked in hospital who are going to have worse health outcomes because the government and the systems are simply not responsive; they have got to invest money into the process.”
She said despite promises of programs to better facilitate patient discharges, nothing had eventuated.
Aged care provider ECH’s chief executive David Panter — who formerly was an executive in South Australia’s health network — said it was a similar story for many older people stuck in hospital awaiting a home care package, or the right level of home care package.
David Panter said older Australians were forced to make many “unnecessary” trips to hospital while awaiting Federal Government support. (ABC News: Claire Campbell)
“At the end of the day we’ve got two sets of government, federal and state, that are involved in this and they’ve got to have a clear way of working with each other,” he said.
“The lack of those packages does mean that there are people who are presenting to the hospital system who wouldn’t have to present if they had the care at home.
“Intensive care was created 40-odd years ago in this country and it was largely about doing heroic things to save young people with futures ahead of themselves and increasingly what we’re seeing [is] many frail, elderly people ending up in intensive care beds who shouldn’t necessarily have got there.”
He said an 87-year-old woman in Adelaide who was waiting for her NDIS package had three hospital admissions in three months, but when her funding came through she stayed out of hospital.
There are about 130,000 people in Australia on the waitlist for a home care package or a higher level of home care package.
Mr Panter said the impact was more widely felt in South Australia because it had a higher population of older people.
He said many family members who were caring for them were rapidly burning out without the extra support and it was contributing to more ending up in hospital.
“What we have is families in distress and being torn apart … without the package, without the additional support that [the] package brings, we’re seeing those families just burn out,” he said.
“We see people whose health is deteriorating and they, therefore, go into hospital unnecessarily.
“It’s becoming quite a regular feature of some people’s lives.”
In a statement, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), responsible for the NDIS, acknowledged that “a small number of participants” were experiencing a delay in their discharge.
“In South Australia there is a pilot underway which is focused on establishing clearer roles and responsibilities between health and NDIA to streamline hospital discharge,” it said.
“Many of the contributing factors associated with delays were experienced prior to the introduction of the NDIS — particularly where accessible accommodation is required and the NDIA need to work closely with state housing solutions.
“The NDIS was never intended to replace other mainstream government services, such as housing, health, mental health, education, justice or community-based supports.”