Feb 08, 2022

Aged care regulator scales back compliance checks and on-site visits of homes

Data provided by the Department of Health shows that in January, only 128 site visits and 87 ‘non-site activities’ – which include measures such as phone compliance checks – were conducted across the nation’s almost 2,700 aged care homes.

The number represents only one-third of the inspections conducted the previous year.

Aged care advocate and founder of Aged Care Matters, Sarah Russell, told The Sydney Morning Herald data from the Department of Health shows COVID-19 numbers are rising sharply in some aged care homes, indicating problems in managing infection control.

“The regulator needs to step up and find out what is going wrong with some of these aged care homes,” said Dr Russell. 

Among the aged care homes with the highest COVID-19 case numbers is Estia Health Kilbride, which has had 125 residents infected, including nine deaths.

Jeta Gardens Aged Care Facility has recorded 100 resident cases including 10 deaths.

Cardinal Stepinac Village has recorded 105 resident cases, including 16 deaths.

The Russian Relief Association’s St Sergius aged care home in Sydney’s Cabramatta has had 118 residents contract COVID-19, including 23 deaths.

Last month, the regulator granted the home’s reaccreditation without conducting a site visit under its “exceptional circumstances” provisions.

According to Department of Health data on 4 February, there are currently 1,176 outbreaks across the aged care sector, representing almost half of all aged care homes in the country. 

Over the course of the pandemic, the regulator has conducted 3,040 spot checks in aged care homes to observe infection control practices and PPE protocols. 

Director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong, Kathy Eagar, told The Sydney Morning Herald the aged care sector was “in total crisis” and “now is not the time for the regulator to be moving to ‘COVID normal’”.

She said Australia’s aged care COVID-19 death toll equated to a 9.62% case fatality rate, compared with 0.15% in the general community.

Aged care residents, who represent only 0.74% of the population, make up 37% of all Australia’s COVID-19 deaths.

Joseph Ibrahim, a specialist in geriatric medicine and professor at Monash University, said there were “serious questions that need to be answered” about the commission’s performance during the pandemic.

The government reappointed Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson for another three-year term on Friday. She took on the role in 2018.

On the weekend, the government called in the Australian Defence Force to help aged care homes experiencing severe staff shortages. In making the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the government’s handling of aged care during the pandemic.

Of course, with so many aged care homes tackling COVID-19 outbreaks and struggling just to keep their heads above water due to short staffing, news that the regulator is conducting fewer site visits might come as a relief – and leave them to direct as many resources as possible to delivering care to residents.

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  1. Joseph Ibrahim, a specialist in geriatric medicine and professor at Monash University, said there were “serious questions that need to be answered” about the commission’s performance during the pandemic.

    The government reappointed Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson for another three-year term on Friday. She took on the role in 2018.

    The Aged Care Royal Commission findings indicated neglect and abuse and therefore the ACQ&SC (regulator) was and is a complete failure – long before the pandemic. This is the body charged with the responsibility to ensure the vulnerable residing in aged care facilities are protected and provided a quality of life.

    The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.

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