Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 October 2002
The Australian health care system is frequently portrayed as being in crisis, with reference to either large financial burdens in the form of hospital deficits, or declining service levels. Older people, characterised as a homogeneous category, are repeatedly identified as a major contributor to the crisis, by unnecessarily occupying acute beds while they await a vacancy in a residential facility. Several enquiries and hospital taskforce management groups have been set up to tackle the problem. This article reviews their findings and strategic recommendations, particularly as they relate to older people. Short-term policy responses are being developed which specifically target older people for early discharge and alternative levels of care, and which, while claiming positive intentions, may introduce new forms of age discrimination into the health system. Few of the currently favoured proposals promote age-inclusivity and older people's rights to equal access to acute care.