Should Aged Care Facilities be Forced to Publish Their Sanctions ?

For most Australians, the task of selecting a residential aged care facility for a loved one is made when a family member realises that things are edging closely towards crisis.

The thought of discussing the mortality or deterioration of a family member is obviously uncomfortable, but this lack of communication often leads to an overly optimistic viewpoint of a loved one’s state of health, and a lack of preparation when aged care housing decisions become a necessity.

There are very few decisions that a person can make in their life, that incur the weight of responsibility associated with finding the appropriate backdrop for an elderly persons twilight years.

And the consequences of this decision will have a massive impact on the wellbeing of the new resident, as well as the person being entrusted to find a facility.

In order for a person to make an informed decision about anything, they need to be able to access as much information as possible

But unfortunately for those looking for insight on prospective residential aged care information regarding government sanctions, mistreatment, and shortcomings, the majority of these facts are either not reported publicly or extremely well hidden.

This lack of transparency is a recurring theme within the realms of the Australian aged care sector, and South Australian Senator, Skye Kakoschke-Moore, is pushing for legislative changes that would force aged care providers to publish all sanctions and non-compliance notifications to their websites.

“Families deserve to know and need to have the full picture when they make the difficult decision to put their loved ones into care or are seeking help for them at home.

“Having these details on a provider’s home page means consumers can make fully-informed decisions about who they’re going to trust with the wellbeing of their loved ones,” she said.

Care providers literally market themselves on their ability to empathise and identify what a person requires in their time of need, which is rather ironic given their refusal to provide families with the information that they require in order to make one of the most important decisions of their lives.

Director of Aged Care Matters, and consumer advocate Dr Sarah Russell, believes that some aged care facilities place a lot more value on protecting their image than they do on providing families with an informed choice.

I noticed recently that the website for St Vincent’s Care Services in Mitchelton includes ‘Under sanctions until Mar 2019.’ However a Bupa aged care home in Traralgon (Gippsland, Victoria) did not mention that it was under sanction on its website. This suggests Bupa was protecting its public image,” she said.

“Aged care homes should publish on their websites any complaints made to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, including how the complaint was resolved. It should be legislated that all aged care homes publish sanctions on their websites,” said Dr Russell.

Although it’s understandable that aged care providers are not overly forthright in publicising their failures, surely the fact that aged care is a critical service entrusted with the livelihood of vulnerable human beings should dictate that full disclosure is necessary.

I find it hard to imagine that the same level of flippancy would be tolerated if we were talking about the care and protection of small children as opposed to the care of an elderly person, and this speaks volumes about the lack of value that government currently places on the elderly.

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  1. You make an interesting point and thank you for also providing an example of a provider making the information available. Indeed many aged care providers supply their quality agency reports on their web sites and would also include information covering sanctions and the like, however it is also important to understand that sanctions can be subject to legal challenge and are often found unsupported by legislation or facts at times. The example is given of childcare – childcare providers are not required to publicise sanctions on their web sites. Such ideas may sound like a wonderful sound bite but frequently lack the insight of the implications to the provider – it’s customers, and it’s team members and volunteers. There needs to be transparency but the how needs to be left to those responsible for that business of care.

  2. It is time all providers (residential and community – including aged care and NDIS) were transparent about everything, including if they are being, or have been sanctioned. They should also make it known if they have any formal complaints pending against them. Protecting their image, and therefore their bottom line, is unhelpful to families who deserve to know the truth about all providers. Not being willing to share this information publicly probably means they may have more to hide, or at least, that could become the public perception!

  3. There really isn’t any real lack of transparency, the shortcomings of aged care are far less than the media would have you believe and that is what’s being considered as being secretive.
    As for publishing all complaints I have to say that in the normal running of a RACS the complaints aren’t that fascinating. For example… I thought the potatoes weren’t creamy enough.. I can’t afford it but why can’t I have a private ensuite room… I can’t find mums brown cardigan… I don’t like the speed hump in the driveway, get rid of it…

    A lot of complaints experienced by facilities are in regards to the cost, we can explain until the cows come home that the Government sets the fees and the means tested contribution but more than you could imagine just don’t believe this.
    So Dr Russell, facilities aren’t being flippant or uncaring but they are busy. Especially busy always trying to keep up with the ever growing document trail demanded by the Government.
    So instead of assuming we have something to hide why don’t you try to believe we are doing good things and delivering excellent care.

  4. Caregivers and medical personnel should have ALL sanctions available for the public. How can we, as caregivers, make an informed decision without it?

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