Apr 27, 2023

Aged Care Commissioner backs struggling providers, “surprised” by closures

Aged Care Commissioner backs struggling providers, “surprised” by closures

Despite a number of recent aged care facility closures, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner said she’d be “beyond surprised” if more homes shut due to incoming legislation and nursing requirements.

She has also backed up any homes fearing the worst and has as long as they’re providing good quality care they will remain open.

In one month’s time, from July 1, all aged care facilities without a 12-month exemption will have to have a Registered Nurse (RN) on-site 24/7. 

But the combination of recruitment challenges and enhanced quality standards mean some providers have seen facilities become non-compliant.

For some, the cost of implementing much-needed renovations or recruiting RNs is too much and they have opted to close.

But Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson, told Perth’s 6PR Mornings she was surprised to hear of organisations closing due to legislation and new responsibilities.

“I would be beyond surprised if a service was making a call to close their doors just because there were new responsibilities being introduced,” Ms Anderson said. 

“We’ve been absolutely clear to the sector that non-compliance with the new responsibilities. If a service is trying hard and delivering safe quality care [this] will not result in any decision on our part that would force a service to close its doors.

“As long as they’re delivering care which is safe, and have good quality and is meeting all the residents’ needs, they have nothing to worry about from the regulator.

“We are not in the business of forcing closures if services are doing the right thing by the residents.”

Ms Anderson’s comments come after Perth operator, Brightwater, announced the closure of three of its smallest homes, impacting 75 residents and 160 staff.

Brightwater Chief Executive, Catherine Stoddart, told ABC Radio Perth that the age of the buildings was one of the main reasons for closure.

“They were built in the early ’90s, and the size – Joondalup is a 20-bed facility – coupled with the minimum staffing requirements out of the Royal Commission have led us to make this decision,” Ms Stoddart said.

“We have a move towards high care clients [who become] quite frail over time, and the facilities themselves are not set up for that.”

Ms Anderson, who shared insight into a conversation with Ms Stoddart, expressed that it was reassuring to hear Brightwater’s efforts to rehome its 75 residents impacted by closures.

Brightwater is expected to increase its net total of beds among its remaining nine facilities to ensure displaced residents have a new home to go to. 

The Government has previously doubled down on its mandates and the July 1 deadline for the 24/7 RN requirements as operators continue speaking up about the recruitment challenges they’re facing.

Ms Anderson has jumped to the defence of providers, though, and she told 6PR that no one should be worried about negative outcomes if they’re struggling to recruit RNs.

“There’s no doubt that there are major workforce pressures and that’s recognised by the Government, it’s certainly recognised by my organisation,” she said.

“I’ve been crystal clear with providers if they are doing their best to attract and retain the necessary staff – including Registered Nurses – if they’re working hard in recruitment but are falling short of the mark then as long as they’re delivering care which is safe and of good quality and is meeting all the residents needs they have nothing to worry about.”

Ms Anderson added that any service provider closing, expanding or relocating a home would have come to that conclusion based on a “range of really good reasons” and she would not second guess them.

She also said that any resident forced to move homes, or family member, that is unhappy with the communication or support offered by a provider can raise a complaint with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

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