Jan 07, 2019

No holiday reprieve for aged care operators as key Royal Commission deadline passes

Australia’s largest aged care operators have been working hard over the holiday season to meet the Aged Care Royal Commission’s request for information deadline, which is today, Monday 7 January 2019.

On 23 November 2018, the Royal Commission contacted Australia’s 100 largest aged care operators, asking them to provide details of any sub-standard care, abuse or complaints at their facilities over the last five years, and outline what their responses were, if the problems stemmed from a systemic failure, and if the problems resulted in a notice of non-compliance or sanctions.

Operators were also asked to show in which areas the sub-standard care occurred, for example in loss of dignity, lack of choice and control, or clinical care, among others.

Operators were also asked to provide information about any younger residents (under 65 years of age) in their care, and if the operator has difficulty accessing healthcare services for residents.

The Commissioners also asked operators what changes they would like to see in the aged care industry.

Smaller operators given more time

Smaller operators have also been asked to provide the same information, but were given a little more time. The deadline for their submissions is 8 February 2019.

The Royal Commission is asking operators to provide significant amounts of information, and even though the responses are not supposed to exceed 50 pages, we can imagine that retrieving, ordering, collating and preparing such a document would be a significant task – especially for larger providers with extensive operations.

It is a sign of the seriousness of the Royal Commission’s intent and purpose that the documents are to be compiled and submitted over the holiday season.

Though it’s not compulsory for operators to provide the information, the Royal Commission has “extensive compulsory powers” and may use those power to secure the information if necessary.

“Workload and tight timelines”

Leading Aged Services Australia CEO, Sean Rooney, acknowledged the significant workload involved with providing the information and the tight timeframe, but said LASA is fully supportive of the Royal Commission.

“The age services industry acknowledges the workload and tight timelines associated with responding to the Royal Commission but is committed to the process, and to making Australia’s aged care system better.

“LASA offers its full support to the Royal Commission and believes it is important that the Royal Commission be open and transparent, providing a forum for all stakeholders to tell their stories with regard to their experiences of the aged care system and share their views on how to make aged care better for all older Australians.

“We all want a safe, high quality and high performing aged care system. Older Australians need it, and older Australians deserve nothing less,” he said.

New year also marks launch of one-stop shop for aged care

The start of the new year is also notable for marking the opening of the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The government’s new ‘one-stop quality and safety website’ means there is now one contact phone number for all aged care concerns or queries – 1800 951 822 – and one website.

The website will include information about:

  • Consumer rights in aged care
  • Free advocacy services to support older Australians
  • Consumer Experience Reports about aged care facilities
  • Audit reports on aged care facilities
  • How to make a complaint
  • Resources to help providers meet the new quality standards
  • Translation services to help non-English speaking clients

The Commission was a key recommendation of the Carnell-Paterson Review which was conducted in the wake of South Australia’s Oakden scandal.

Janet Anderson has been appointed to lead the new $300 million Commission. Anderson will oversee the approval, accreditation, assessment, complaints processes, monitoring and compliance of aged care providers in Australia. She will report directly to the Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt MP.

The Commission has a budget of more than $48 million to continue “ramping up” compliance checks on aged care operators, including employing dozens more compliance officers.

Ms Anderson said, “Our key focus will be on safeguarding the more than 1.3 million senior Australians who receive some form of aged care service.”

Unannounced re-accreditation audits to triple in 2019

“Unannounced re-accreditation audits of aged care homes will triple in 2019, compared with 2018, and there will be an increase in unannounced inspections, to more than 3,000 this year,” she said.

Ms Anderson said staff have been “transitioning” to the new Commission from the former Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the former Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

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