Australian Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, who oversees the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), said “bureaucratic glue” was preventing healthy patients from leaving public hospitals.
Over 1,400 NDIS participants across Australia are now waiting an average of 160 days to be discharged.
As a result, Australian taxpayers have to pay at least $2,300 (US$1,600) per day for each patient left behind, which Shorten calls “madness.”
Under NDIS, the federal government pays for the support of people with permanent and significant disabilities.
The scheme covers many areas of assistance, including self-reliance, community involvement, education, employment, health and well-being.
After Labor won the federal election in May, the minister blamed the previous Morrison government for the state of the NDIS he inherited while working to resolve outstanding issues.
“The previous administration has honestly ignored this issue (and) I am really embarrassed because this is a real issue. It has real consequences.” He said ABC Radio Melbourne.
“Hospitals are designed to treat the sick. It’s also more risky.”
Bureaucratic decision-making blamed on NDIS backlog
Shorten also said the patient’s discharge process appears to be delayed by bureaucratic decision-making rather than a lack of adequate accommodation.
He added that authorities were making decisions about patients serially, not simultaneously, which defied common sense.
“Between the diligent actions … within the system from hospitals to individuals to disability institutions, somewhere between those efforts and their results, there is a huge bureaucratic glue that seems to hold everything back. There seems to be a pot,” he said.
“It’s a ubiquitous problem.”
Regarding long wait times for NDIS participants, Dr. Bronwyn Morcum, director of the Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance, said he was not surprised by the situation.
However, she believed the issue could be resolved through flexibility and cooperation between the NDIS and the health service.
“I think there needs to be real collaboration and cooperation between NDIS and health services, and a transitional approach to getting patients back into the community they belonged to.” she said ABC radio.
“There are specialized disabled accommodation options and services available to people. It’s definitely going to be a place that lets you.”
However, Shorten said that more funding for NDIS is not the only solution. However, you can fix inefficient processes and increase transparency.
He also said part of the solution lies in community mental health funding and the support schools provide to students with additional needs.
“Sometimes the answer isn’t completely hard,” he said. “I think it takes political will to find them and implement them.”