With pressure mounting on the government to fix the multitude of problems in aged care, it is moving ahead with key recommended changes, even as the Royal Commission gets underway.
Unannounced audits, which were recommended in the Carnell-Paterson review in the wake of the Oakden scandal, were introduced on 1 July this year, and the government has revealed that the number of unannounced visits will rise sharply again next year.
Unannounced re-accreditation audits will rise from 263 this year to almost 900 in 2019, the government said.
Unannounced inspections, targeting particular standards, identified risks, and complaints, are expected to rise to more than 3,000.
In other moves, the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, another recommendation of the Carnell-Paterson review, will come into effect on 1 January 2019, and the government has revealed it will be led by respected health sector leader, Janet Anderson.
The new Commission will combine the roles of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, and the Department of Health’s aged care compliance responsibilities – effectively creating a “one-stop shop” for consumers and providers.
It will have a budget of almost $300 million over four years and will employ dozens of additional senior compliance officers.
Leading Age Services Australia Chief Executive, Sean Rooney, said LASA is committed to working with the new Commission to ensure high standards in the industry.
“The new Aged Care Safety and Quality Commission, along with the Aged Care Quality Framework, will provide a strong backbone for quality outcomes in aged care,” he said.
“The Commission, alongside the introduction of unannounced re-accreditation visits that came into effect on 1st July this year, will drive quality improvements in the aged care system and help restore confidence for the community and providers alike,” he said.
In her new role heading up the Commission, Ms Anderson will oversee approval, accreditation, assessment, complaints resolution, monitoring and compliance of all Commonwealth-funded aged care providers.
Anderson is highly experienced in the healthcare sector. Her most recent role was Deputy Chief Executive and acting Chief Executive of the Northern Territory Department of Health.
She will report directly to Ken Wyatt, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care.
Pat Sparrow, CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia welcomed Ms. Anderson’s appointment, and said it was pleased to see the Government continuing with reform.
“All those parties with an interest in aged care, whether as a resident or a provider, need the system to function with firm but fair regulation that protects the principles of safety and quality of life,” she said.
“As an industry and a community, we have zero tolerance for poor or inattentive care and Australians have the right to expect a regulatory system to reflect and enforce that at all times.
“We absolutely need regulation that holds to account those who abuse or neglect and identifies those instances of sub-standard care in a timely and effective way.
“The community needs certainty and confidence that the regulation protecting their loved ones is functioning effectively,” Ms Sparrow said.
Although the recent spate of horror stories from within aged care are hard to watch, there are positives that come from the public viewing of these tragedies.
Recently, facilities where shocking incidents have taken place, have become the subsequent targets of unannounced visits by authorities, which have resulted in sanctions.
The number of serious risk reports, sanctions, and non-compliance notices are rising, and with the news that unannounced audits will again increase next year, will probably be up again next year. With more problems being identified in aged care, the more likely it will be that problems can be solved.
We sincerely hope we are seeing the early shoots of the improvements in aged care that we all so strongly desire.
If you have concerns about the quality of aged care services, you can contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on 1800 550 552 or go to www.agedcarecomplaints.gov.au.