WA is heading for an aged-care crunch that risks longer waiting times for residential care homes and more pressure on the State's hospitals.
The State's main industry body for aged-care providers said WA should be building capacity for nearly 4000 more aged-care beds than it was - the equivalent of five Fiona Stanley hospitals.
Aged and Community Services WA chief executive Stephen Kobelke said the high cost of construction in WA meant many Federal Government-subsidised residential care places were not being taken up by providers.
"Since 2007 WA providers have stopped building aged-care," Mr Kobelke told a seniors forum yesterday.
"Currently we in WA under-subscribe 3970 beds. The crunch will come, probably around 2019. That is a challenge for us."
Council of the Ageing WA chief executive Ken Marston echoed Mr Kobelke's concerns, saying the shortage of aged-care beds "will worsen over time".
New residential aged-care places and home care packages are released annually through the Government's aged-care approvals round.
The number of places offered is determined by a State or Territory's demographics.
Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Mr Kobelke said only about 800 of the 1500 beds offered this year were taken up.
"Each year the separation between what we've actually had over that time and what should be being built continues to widen and it was again this year," he said.
Mr Kobelke said a failure to provide enough aged-care beds would push older West Australians into the hospital system and heighten competition for high-care residential places, in particular.
"If residential aged care is not improved, you'll need a couple of Fiona Stanleys just to cope with everyone moving from home to hospital, home to hospital," he said.
There are signs the State's hospitals are already feeling the pinch, with Health Minister Kim Hames last year blaming a shortage of aged-care beds for hospital overcrowding. Dr Hames declined to comment yesterday.