The announcement, made by Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt, will see the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health come together under the one entity.
Minister Wyatt says the new Commission, developed in response to the Carnell-Patterson review into failures at South Australia’s Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service, will be a responsive, one-stop shop to prevent failures, highlight quality concerns and have them “quickly rectified”.
“This builds on the Government’s recent introduction of unannounced re-accreditation audits across every one of Australia’s residential aged care facilities,” he explains.
“Importantly, the new Commission will give senior Australians and their loved ones a single point of contact when they need help in dealing with claims of sub-standard care.”
Australia’s leading advocacy body for older Australians and aged care consumers Council on the Ageing (COTA) has come forward to welcome the Government’s announcement, with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ian Yates saying it is another significant step towards better monitoring and enforcement of quality in Australia’s aged care system, together with the new regime of unannounced visits by quality assessors.
“These are welcome steps towards rebuilding confidence that older Australians will receive safe and appropriate care,” Mr Yates explains.
“Although, Government still needs to go further and give consumers direct control over their aged care funding, as recommended by several inquiries and this Government’s own aged care advisory body.”
The Aged Care Guild, made up of Australia’s largest residential aged care providers, has also welcomed the key elements of the Federal Government’s proposed reforms, with Interim CEO of the Guild Lee Hill saying that his organisation looked forward to working with the government to ensure that the reforms fulfilled the recommendations set out in the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes.
“We’ve been very clear through the review process about the need to eliminate the inconsistencies in how the industry is regulated by the relevant government agencies and to increase accountability for aged care policy, regulation and the consumer feedback and appeals mechanism,” Mr Hill says.
“The establishment of an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is a positive step to address these issues, but it is important that it doesn’t become just another layer of bureaucracy.
“The government should take the opportunity provided by the establishment of this Commission to more efficiently regulate the aged care sector and allow our staff to focus on caring for our residents rather than red tape.”
Australian peak body for seniors, National Seniors, is another consumer advocacy group to step forward and be encouraged by the introduction of the Commission, with Chief Advocate Ian Henschke saying that having a single point of contact for the aged care industry was a welcome move for consumers, however he warns that it needs to be well implemented, if it is to lead to better monitoring and early detection of quality care issues.
All three peak bodies - COTA, National Seniors and the Guild - have also welcomed the additional announcements made by government which include the introduction or performance ratings for aged care providers, as well as the inclusion of a Chief Clinical Advisor and a Serious Incident Response Scheme.
A day prior to the Government’s announcement, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) released a statement saying that “better staffing will fix the crisis in aged care”.
In the statement, ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler suggested that increasing staffing levels is “precisely what will solve the problem for elderly, vulnerable Australians in nursing homes”.
“The aged care sector presents complex problems that successive governments have grapples with, unsuccessfully, for years,” Ms Butler explains.
“They’ve conducted myriad reports, reviews and inquiries looking for complex solutions to complex problems rather than going straight to the core of the problem - chronic understaffing.
“Ensuring the right number of people with the right mix of skills to care for our elderly Australians is what can be delivered by mandating minimum staffing ratios and skills mix.
“It works in our public hospitals, and it works in our childcare centres.”
The Government’s announced Aged Care Safety and Quality Commission will commence from 1 January 2019.