‘Broken system’: Call for NDIS to pay for SA hospital beds

The Australian Medical Association has accused the NDIS of leaving people with disabilities “languishing” in crowded hospitals, saying it should be forced to pay for taking up beds desperately needed by others.

Dr Chris Moy, AMA vice-president, told InDaily the National Disability Insurance Scheme was a “complete disaster” and was exacerbating the current crisis in SA’s hospital system.

“Because of the broken system, clients are getting stuck in hospital when they really should be in the community,” Moy told InDaily.

Health Minister Chris Picton this week described the hospital system as in “crisis” and said he was opening every bed available, including “buying” space in the private system.

Clinicians are bracing for worse to come in the state’s hospitals, with modelling predicting another COVID peak in mid-July when 150 patients are expected to be hospitalised for complications from COVID.

Picton said 100 public patients were already in private hospital beds because the public system was too full, and the Government would contract a further 28 private beds this week.

He said there were 118 NDIS patients currently in the state’s public hospitals ready for discharge and waiting for NDIS placements in the community –equivalent to the size of a full Noarlunga Hospital.

Moy said the time had now come to force the NDIS to pay for the hospital beds it was unnecessarily taking up.

“NDIS should not be let off the hook here,” he said.

“Push the cost onto NDIS and then they’ll find a solution faster. That’s what happens in the UK and places like that.”

Moy made it clear it was “completely not the fault” of the individual NDIS clients using the beds.

“It’s the fault of a broken NDIS system which is leaving patients unable to get the best care that they need and leaving them languishing in hospital, which is not only the worst place for them but also is occupying a large number of beds which has a domino effect in this critical time when we need those beds,” he said.

“And it may have health consequences for other people because of that.”

Moy said it was a “hidden scandal during this pandemic” that 800 to 1000 NDIS patients were “stranded” in hospitals around the country at any one time – “the worst place they could be away from supports and rehabilitation”.

“It is a ‘Yes Minister’ level debacle that bureaucracy in NDIS has led to not only massive cost-shifting to state-run public hospitals, but also putting the population at risk (by) worsening the log jam in hospitals causing ramping and delayed care of patients,” he said.

“For reasons of transparency and accountability the NDIS should be responsible for paying the hospitals for delays in discharge caused by its failure to provide timely placement for their vulnerable clients.

“Being responsible for the thousands of dollars a day that their clients are forced to stay in hospital for weeks or months might force the urgent change that is required to the system.”

Picton told InDaily he would “absolutely” support a move to bill the NDIS for beds taken up by clients no longer needing medical treatment.

“We have a huge pressure on the system where NDIS patients need support to leave hospital… but they are stuck waiting sometimes for very long periods of time,” he said.

“We have already had commitments from (NDIS Minister) Bill Shorten that they are going to commit to timeframes of getting people out of hospital and we are absolutely putting this on the agenda for part of the health reform discussions which have just started.

“I’ll be meeting state, territory and federal counterparts next week and this is absolutely going to be one of the key issues of discussion, in terms of those NDIS clients who no longer need to be in hospital and how we can get them out and care for them elsewhere.”

A spokesperson for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) said Shorten “has made it clear… that the safe and timely hospital discharge of NDIS participants who are medically ready is a priority”.

“Minister Shorten, and his state and territory colleagues last week tasked officials to work together as a priority to develop a strategy for agreement at the next Disability Reform Ministers’ meeting in July to improve safe and timely discharge of NDIS participants from hospital,” the spokesperson said.

“This includes ensuring that the NDIA has quicker processes for getting plans in place, so that people know what supports they are entitled to.”

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