NOT GOOD ENOUGH: John Ashdown and his wife of 35 years, Rita, pictured in their Pialba home.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH: John Ashdown and his wife of 35 years, Rita, pictured in their Pialba home. Alistair Brightman

Aged care funding system failing Coast's most vulnerable

JOHNNY Ashdown is exactly the type of person the welfare system is intended to support.

A man who has worked all his life, contributed to society and in his retirement needs home assistance for his ailing health.

However by the Health Department's own admission, it might be years before the Hervey Bay 77-year-old sees funding from a My Aged Care Home Care package.

With health conditions from hypertension, diabetes, a hole in the heart and asbestos poisoning that requires him to be hooked up to an oxygen machine 24 hours a day, Mr Ashdown might not survive long enough to see the money.

After an on-going battle to receive the commonwealth-funded My Aged Care package which has lasted since he was assessed more than six months ago, the UK ex-pat says he has been met by bureaucracy, red tape and extended waiting periods.

"It's just unacceptable," the Pialba grandfather said.

"As scary as it is to think about, I might not be here by the time it's approved. At my age I can't afford to give up easy. I feel sorry for the others like me. I have to speak up for them.

"I started work as a builder when I was 14 and didn't come to this country for a hand-out but we just can't afford things like the oxygen tanks or a portable oxygen concentrator ourselves.

"It's humiliating. I feel like a beggar just to get a little bit of help."

Forced to use oxygen tanks attached to his motorised scooter to leave the house, Mr Ashdown has had to take a loan against his pension to afford the $600 monthly bill.

Assessed by the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service's Aged Care Assessment Team, it was determined he required the highest care package available equivalent to $50,286 per annum. However the queue for the national scheme is managed by the Commonwealth and is not related to WBHHS.

WBHHS chief executive Adrian Pennington said packages were not solely designed to buy equipment, such as mobility aids - they also covered personal care, meal preparation, continence and nursing support.

"Due to the expected wait time, our ACAT staff helped Mr Ashdown to be placed on an interim Home Care Package 2, $15,045, which has a shorter wait time," he said.

"This will enable him to fund some services sooner while he is waiting for the Home Care Package 4."

Even though Mr Ashdown has been referred to the WBHHS's Palliative Care and Nurse Navigator program, he is yet to see any money and this week received a letter from MAC saying he does not meet the requirements to be fast-tracked.

A Health Department spokesperson said the Commonwealth assesses for aged care needs and not health care needs.

"The department encourages Mr Ashdown to contact My Aged Care to determine what other interim supports under the Commonwealth Home Support Program may be available to support him while he is waiting for a level 2 Home Care Package to be assigned," the spokesman said.

"Aged care programs, such as the Home Care Packages Program and the Commonwealth Home Support Program, are key to supporting senior Australians to remain living in their home for longer. Yet these programs do not replace primary care as part of the broader health system, including services accessed through General Practitioners and hospitals."

The department confirmed the expected wait time for both a package level 2 and level 4 was more than 12 months.



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