Jun 07, 2021

In just 6 weeks there were almost 2,000 “reportable incidents” in aged care homes

WHEELCHAIR EMPTY ROOM

That’s nearly 25 instances of unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct every week.

In total, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received 4,496 notifications through the new Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) from aged care providers between 1 April to 12 May 2021. 

LASA General Manager Policy and Advocacy, Tim Hicks, told HelloCare the new SIRS has only been in place for a short time so “it is to be expected” there would be an “initial spike” in the number of incidents reported as a result of uncertainty about definitions.

“Providers tell us they are erring on the side of caution in ensuring they meet the requirements or face significant penalties for not reporting,” he said.

The most common priority 1 notifications received were for unreasonable use of force (778 incidents) and neglect (448).

“Concerned” about level of sexual assault in aged care

Last month, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson told a Senate estimates hearing, “We have never been anything other than concerned about the level of reported sexual assault in residential aged care” when asked about 108 causes of unlawful or inappropriate sexual conduct occurring in the first month on the SIRS.

Now, with the data updated, it appears the situation is only more dire.

16 investigations conducted

The commission assesses every notification within 24 hours for any risk to residents. In cases where the commission determines “immediate action” is required to “respond to and mitigate risk to consumers” and where there is a question over the “provider’s compliance with its responsibilities”, then the commission will conduct an investigation.

There were 16 investigations conducted between 1 April and 12 May 2021.

New figures are “concerning”

Hicks said complying with the new SIRS has been “frustrating” for providers because they have had “very little time to understand and implement” the scheme.

Providers would like more granular information about what is occurring in homes, so they can benchmark and improve their processes, he said.

“While the figures are concerning and compel further investigation, they do not give a true understanding of what is actually occurring, and without knowing what is going on it is difficult to say exactly what needs to change.”

“At an individual incident level, providers analyse the cause and discuss,” he said.

Hicks said LASA will discuss with members the common themes being reported, any causes that are identified, and actions that can be taken.

SIRS to include priority 2 from October

Most incidents not classified as priority 1, the commission classifies as priority 2, and they will have to be reported from 1 October 2021.

According to the commission’s website, an example of a priority 2 incident is one where a resident fell while walking in the garden of an aged care home. The person did not fall due to the use of force and there was no indication of neglect or that the service failed to provide care or support in line with the resident’s assessed needs and preferences. 

Where to now?

Anderson told HelloCare, “It is always concerning to receive reports of serious incidents in aged care – regardless of the number.

“A key part of SIRS is the requirement for providers to have in place an effective incident management system to reduce the likelihood of injuries and other incidents impacting consumers, and to respond appropriately to incidents if and when they occur.

“The preventative benefits of SIRS are expected to grow over time, as services analyse their own incident data, identify systemic, and controllable risks to consumer safety, health and wellbeing, and take targeted action to mitigate these risks.”

But with the new reporting system revealing sexual misconduct, rough handling and neglect are still alarmingly common occurrences in aged care, rather offering up a solution, the new SIRS is simply ringing alarm bells more loudly.

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  1. Of the 8 types of serious incidents at least 6 are legally actionable either in civil claims or criminal complaint. Who is obliged to report potentially criminal incidents? Can we be sure that happens? What is the resident told and what information is provided about legal remedies? What is it about the aged care system that deliberately leads people away from legal remedies, which other Australians -not in aged care – might otherwise consider? Just wondering.

  2. ‘Initial spike’ and ‘uncertainty of definitions’ I don’t think so. Talk to anybody who has had the misfortune of working for ‘Quality’ units in other jurisdictions and what you will find is that if anything there is an under reporting and a downgrading of risk. This is because the management of risk involves real money which these facilities do not have. Editing incident reports and downgrading the level of the incident occurs frequently. Sometimes a risk is identified and the Executive will not or cannot afford to hire more staff, increase the quality of staff, make organisational change, etc. This is why incident reporting has become almost a waste of time in some organisations.

  3. These figures represent under-reporting at this stage, but in any estimates of unconscionable conduct towards seniors in “care” situations they are a stain on Australia’s national conscience; they are appalling.

  4. Thankyou for alerting us to these really horrific statistics.Can the public freely access these on the website of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission?

  5. The commission assesses every notification within 24 hours for any risk to residents. In cases where the commission determines “immediate action” is required to “respond to and mitigate risk to consumers” and where there is a question over the “provider’s compliance with its responsibilities”, then the commission will conduct an investigation.

    An ‘investigation’ is the old ‘tick and flick’ method that has failed the consumer for far too long and the RC confirmed this was and continues to be the case. The commission selectively misleads the public with ‘action’ and ‘respond’. No mention of ‘enforcement’, ‘protection’ or ‘penalties’.
    Nothing to see here – move along…

    No declaration by the commission that they are under-resourced or not qualified to handle all these so called ‘notifications’ not complaints – amazing!!! “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”

  6. Sadly the reporting numbers will continue to grow,this is not due to insufficient staffing necessarily but more correctly the changes to medications able to be used in facilities.

    In the community your GP can prescribe calming medicine that makes you are a better person to be around.
    Unfortunately the knee jerk reaction of late sees most facilities seeing residents with aggressive behaviour unable to be assisted and personality clashes that could be avoided with a bit of common sense and appropriate medication administered,this is causing the spike in reporting and facilities are seriously restricted in management options.
    The lack of assistance from hospital and elder persons mental health is also seeing avoidable resident on resident altercation that will continue to escalate under the present system.

    Imagine for a second if people with serious mental issues in the community could no longer have access to appropriate medication..but that’s what is now expected in residential care.

    I don’t advocate over use of medicine but the real cost to residents of under use is being ignored.

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