Sep 29, 2020

Over 650 deaths across 220 aged care homes – but quality watchdog issues no sanctions


The aged care quality regulator failed to issue a single sanction as the COVID-19 pandemic gathered pace, despite receiving 340 complaints about infection control.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received a total of 2,199 complaints in the three months to June 2020, more than 800 more than it received during the previous quarter.

It received 340 complaints about infection control and 270 complaints about communicating with family, both issues that have been at the heart of problems aged care providers have faced during outbreaks of COVID-19.

In the midst of these complaints, the Commission conducted 782 assessment contacts in the quarter, but no sanctions arose from those contacts.

The Commission put unannounced audits on hold during the June quarter, and instead conducted ‘short-notice’ inspections of aged care homes, with providers  given 24-48 hours’ notice.

During inspections, aged care homes failed to comply with the standards 63 times. 

Five homes failed to meet the required standards for ‘effective management of high-impact or high-prevalence risks’ and ‘safe and effective personal and clinical care’.

Four homes failed to meet the standard for ‘safe, clean and well maintained service environment’.

During the June quarter, the Commission issued three ‘notices to agree’, including to Newmarch House, which set out certain actions a provider must take within a set timeframe.

A notice to agree requires the provider to appoint an independent adviser to provide direction and advice to address any non-compliances. Providers are also required to give close, ongoing attention to keeping residents and families informed about the regulatory actions. Notices to agree also require providers to immediately implement and comply with all advice, recommendations and directions of Victorian local health authorities.

But no sanctions were issued during the period. 

Sanctions impose a heavier financial penalty on the home. They can be issued when the Commission considers the home to pose a ‘serious or severe’ risk to residents. When sanctions are imposed, the provider must appoint experts to its staff for a set period to help them resolve its problems and the home also can’t take in any new residents for a set period, usually six months.

“It’s hard to believe”

It is jarring that despite the obvious failings in aged care homes during the three months to June, as evidenced by the complaints and the Commission’s own assessment of failures to meet the standards, no sanctions were issued. 

As Joseph Ibrahim, head of the health law and ageing research unit at Monash University, told The Australian, the large number of complaints was a clear sign of community distress. 

“It’s hard to believe that from 2000 complaints, not a single regulatory action appears to have been taken,” he said. 

HelloCare put questions to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission but at the time of publishing had not received a response.

Image: shape charge, iStock.

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  1. Really? Cane the centre for a virus that we know attacks the elderly. Sanction them (Preventing them from admitting new residents for six months) when they are already on the brink of bankruptcy?
    Have we all lost our minds?

    1. Excellent reply, I also believe,, if the ACQC went in giving sanctions during unprecedented timeS, there would be more complaints. The C Facilities are doing it touch enough without being sanctioned on top of this.

  2. Hello Care? Your article really shows your misunderstanding of what is going on with the Virus in aged care. Sanctions will not kill the virus. Please look around the world at the results. You will find that the elderly in Australia are in good hands. As this virus is terrible……you may like to look at the death rate of the elderly in relation to a flue outbreaks over several years. Any death is tragic but aged care is doing it’s very best.

  3. The Agency in my opinion is the one of the most incompetent organisation I have contacted.
    Even after a couple of restructures post the “Oakden failure”it still has not improved.
    One hand still does not talk to the other.
    Sanctions should not be the solution but they should insure standards and improvements are done when found and reported in residential care.
    There is no very little to no protection of people in care

  4. Nursing homes are not hospitals. They are not meant to deal with a ” once in a hundred years pandemic” help them, don’t censure them. I have worked in aged care for over 30 years, and find the federal government has tried to get the books back in the black by stripping money off them. Give us money but declare nursing ratios and where the money goes. Not for profits can barely manage to be profitable so how anyone can make a profit is beyond me. We can always use more trained staff but are always told we are overstaffed. I do not think so anymore.

  5. Have to wonder if people in their 20’s were buying their way into group living facilities with meals, laundry, entertainment, hairdressing and spa facilities etc (except nursing), pool, barbecues, movie theatre,cleaners, reception,facility manager, bus trips included with fees, if these young people would be looked after better when paying upfront than our elderly! There would be an uproar if the business they or their parents paid for in advance did not deliver the services paid for!! Just a thought.

  6. As a simple comparator, there have been multiple tertiary level hospitals where significant numbers of staff have contracted coronavirus. These hospitals allegedly have the highest level of training in relation to infection control, they have access to limitless amounts of PPE, and they are at the pinnacle of clinical care. Yet I do not see the public, or the press, raising concerns about the performance of their systems, processes or staff capability. Can we not accept that this is a challenge for all of society? Can we not accept that mistakes happen, and we can learn from them? Can we not accept that in the current circumstances perhaps we should support everyone, and not at every opportunity try to apportion blame?

  7. Caroline Egan you clearly have NO idea what a aged care community is or under what conditions they operate.
    Aged care communities are NOT hospitals and receive about 80% LESS funding that what hospitals do.
    That’s right Aged care communities operate on 20% of of what hospitals receive from the government and that’s without the safety net of being able to hit the govt for more when the hospitals have blown their budgets, Aged care communities have to close down.

    Mrs Egan have you not seen the devastation this covid virus has caused in hospitals around the world in countries that have a far better funded hospital system than Australia. countries like France, Italy , Spain and Austria were overwhelmed by this virus.
    With all that in mind you still have the gaul to put the boot into aged care providers who don’t have the same funding as hospitals and in some states like Victoria their own state govt instructed aged care providers they could NOT send their covid positive resident to hospital for the same care any other person is entitled to.
    Yet I don’t see you criticizing the state governments for denying their states residents the same opportunity to hospital care as other residents NOT in aged care communities.
    Mrs Eagan your article is not only untrue but reeks of union propaganda under tones.
    Why not try writing the positive truths about aged care communities for a change.

    1. Hi John, thank you for your comment. We always appreciate hearing from our readers. This year has been extremely difficult for aged care providers, and we acknowledge that. In no way did I intend to “put the boot” into providers in this article, in fact, we often write about the wonderful work providers do, even in the most trying of circumstances. Please see these articles as examples. I hope you continue to read HelloCare, and perhaps find some of our articles more agreeable. All the best, Caroline

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