Apr 04, 2022

Report on abuse in aged care delayed as bureaucrats discuss ‘strategic narrative’

Report on abuse in aged care delayed

In May 2021, the Commission released the first report on the Serious Incident Report Scheme (SIRS), which was created to ensure aged care homes are reporting and keeping a register of serious incidents.

There are eight types of serious incidents that must be notified to the Commission, including – but not restricted to – neglect, stealing and abuse. 

The SIRS expanded the range of reportable incidents that must be reported to the Commission.

In that first report, the Commission detailed the results of the data obtained in the first six weeks since the SIRS’ implementation. In that time there were 192 unexpected deaths reported, 448 cases of neglect, and 778 cases of “unreasonable use of force”.

Overall there were 1,876 priority 1 notifications.

However, no reports have been released since then, even though the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson PSM, promised one would be forthcoming late last year.

The Commission said in a statement that reporting is “discretionary” and it is “exploring options” for how best to present information, according to a report in The Guardian.

In the Commission’s report on the Performance of the Aged Care Sector for the December 2021 quarter, there were 5,102 priority 1 reportable incidents – nearly three as many as during the six-week period.

There were 2,443 cases of ‘unreasonable use of force’ and more than 1,000 cases of ‘neglect’. There were more than 500 cases of ‘unlawful’ or ‘inappropriate’ sexual contact and nearly 200 ‘unexpected’ deaths.

Other reportable incidents included psychological or emotional abuse, unexplained absences, inappropriate restrictive practices and stealing or financial coercion.

The Guardian has seen emails from the Commission showing the second report is almost complete but has not been released following months of delays as “bureaucrats” discuss the formatting and messaging.

The purpose of releasing the data is to encourage aged care providers to improve their services.

A freedom of information request obtained by the ABC shows at least seven drafts of the second report have been prepared, and reveals staff have been debating the “strategic narrative” and “messaging” of the data.

Sarah Russell, an aged care advocate who is running as an independent candidate in the outgoing Minister for Health Greg Hunt’s seat of Flinders, said it was “disappointing” to see bureaucrats “trying to make a strategic narrative out of people’s lives”. 

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