Improved Access to Exercise for Aged Care Residents impacted by COVID-19 

3 December 2020

Efforts by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), the peak professional association for university trained exercise professionals to improve access to exercise physiology services for those older Australians impacted by COVID-19 have  been successful.

ESSA is delighted with the announcement by the Australian Ministers for Health and Aged Care introducing new measures in response to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s recommendations on COVID-19. The measures provide greater access to exercise physiology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy for aged care residents.

Accredited Exercise Physiologists will be eligible to provide additional services under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Chronic Disease Management program for 18 months. AEPs will be able to claim one annual assessment item per aged care resident, one flag fall per visit to assist in the cost of travelling to a residential facility and provide an additional five annual sessions to residents with a chronic disease, making a total of ten sessions available to residents to access.

Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA’s CEO said, “These new items and the increased number of exercise physiology sessions are something we have been working hard to achieve to better support for those older Australians with chronic conditions. One important contributor to  most chronic diseases is physical inactivity. Broadening access to age- appropriate exercise therapy is critical to help older Australians improve their strength, balance and mobility to improve their quality of life and overall health, maintain their capacity and in some cases reverse their decline.”

“We anticipate the demand for these exercise services will be huge with more than three-quarters of those aged over 65 years having at least one chronic condition and more than 70% of those aged 85 years and over having five or more chronic conditions.”

The new MBS measures will be introduced over the coming months and are expected to be in place until June 30, 2022 with access beyond this date subject to evaluation by the Government.

Twice weekly group services for six months to build physical strength will also be delivered through Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in aged care facilities that experienced extended periods of COVID-19 lock down. Eleven Primary Health Networks in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania will have access to funding to deliver these services.

“This breakthrough has been the result of hard work done by the new Commonwealth Chief Allied Health Officer, Dr. Anne-marie Boxall, and her colleagues in the Department of Health. Dr Boxall’s appointment was a significant one for allied health generally and we are now seeing the dividends of that decision,” said Ms. Hobson-Powell.

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