Dutch Scheme could help save Australia's Aged Care crisis

NPAQ recommends Buurtzorg Scheme

The Courier Mail's Des Houghton reported that after it was revealed 230 older Australians die each week waiting for government help to stay at home, pioneering Dutch neighbourhood care scheme may offer a solution to Australia’s burgeoning aged care crisis.  


IT’S plain to see that our senior citizens have become a bloody nuisance.

They are living longer so the share of public funds required for their pensions and health care is soaring.

I regret to say that seems to be the prevailing mood in the community, especially with selfish millennials who see their inheritances being frittered away.

However, our mirror on aged care is cracked.

The truth is our oldies are being short-changed by an ungrateful nation that treats them appallingly.

Horror stories coming out of the Royal Commission into Aged Care confirm that. Our seniors have been starved to death. Some have been left for days with broken bones. Old people in care are raped, abused and neglected.

I rush to say not say all retirement homes are so dreadful.

Allowing the elderly to remain at longer may save lives.
Allowing the elderly to remain at longer may save lives.

The Courier-Mail has diligently reported wrongdoing in some homes including the plight of an elderly woman who was not bathed for two years and patients turned into zombies with calming medications not prescribed for them.

Last weekend the Sunday Mail revealed that 230 older Australians die each week while waiting for government-funded help to stay in their homes.

Annika Smethurst reported new figures, secretly released to her, showing 11,987 older Australians died while waiting for ­home care packages in 2018-19.

Another 8,000 were forced into a nursing homes when home care funding dried up.

But there is a solution. It’s called Buurtzorg or “neighbourhood care”, a Dutch scheme that allows the elderly to stay in their own homes longer, where they are happiest.

In the Dutch model self-managed teams of up to 12 nurses look after groups of around 60 oldies.

More than 100,000 Australians are still waiting for their home care packages, after the federal government announced a $662 million boost to the aged care sector.
In a submission to the commission, the Nurses’ Professional Association has called on the federal governments to begin immediate trials of Buurtzorg. In my break away from this column I helped write the submission.

“Our current system is costly, cumbersome, overburdened with bureaucrats — and does not work,” said NPAQ founding director Graeme Haycroft.

“At the moment, we are trapped in a dysfunctional system that robs the elderly of happy ­retirement. Most elderly people do not want to leave the family home, so why should they be forced to?”

Under the Buurtzorg model each nurse visits around three or four patients a day at least once a week. They may only drop in for a cup of tea and a check-up once a week, or visit more often if they feel there is a need.

The nursing teams liaise with a network of GPs, physios, occupational therapists and social workers.

Nurses’ Professional Association Queensland Graeme Haycroft.
Nurses’ Professional Association Queensland Graeme Haycroft.

They are also in contact with community guardians such as the police and welfare officers.

“The nurses themselves decide how long they stay with each person,” Haycroft said.

“They work in self-managed teams so there simply isn’t a need for a massive bureaucracy. And nurses don’t need to be told what to do by managers.”

The organization has grown to 15,000 nurses in Holland.

“Managers have largely become redundant, at a great saving to taxpayers.”

Buurtzorg was founded in 2006 by a nurse named Jos de Blok to provide home care to the sick and elderly in the Netherlands.

De Blok’s mottos was “humanity over bureaucracy”. Around 20 other countries have now introduced Buurtzorg.

He says Buurtzorg nursing is more intimate, more satisfying and a more humane experience for nurses and patients.

Sky News host Chris Smith has called on the public not to “ignore” older Australians who will be spending their Christmas in an aged care facility this year. “If you've got lo...

The NPAQ’s submission said overhead costs at Buurtzorg centres in the Netherlands average 8 per cent of turnover, significantly less than the 25 per cent market standard in Australia.

Another saving is in the fewer hospital admissions and shorter hospital stays required by its ­patients.

A study by Ernst & Young estimated that the Netherlands would save nearly $3 billion a year if all home care organizations achieved Buurtzorg’s results.

Scaled to the Australian population, the number would rise to $4.5 billion in savings. It all sounds very sensible but there is a towering bureaucracy to break down first.

Haycroft praised the Morrison government’s pledge to increase home care packages but questioned how much would be spent on frontline nursing, and how much on “useless” bureaucrats.

Of course there are already home care services available in this country but vast sums are chewed up in administration costs. And a new funding model has to be found. Politicians must act swiftly. Old people are getting angry. The gnarled fist will soon be banging on the table.


Des Houghton, Courier Mail 18 January 2020

Original article - https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/pioneering-dutch-scheme-could-help-solve-australias-aged-care-crisis/news-story/72496bce0cd32437362e700b9b72d07b