Users of non-monitored medical alert alarms, charities and care organisations, advocacy groups and providers of non-medical alert systems had raised concerns over these types of alarms not working over the nbn™ network in the event of a power cut. These users are currently faced with expensive upgrades to ensure their system is compatible with the nbn™ network.
Users of systems compliant with a standard associated with monitored medical systems are entitled to a subsidy from the $100 million Medical Alarm Subsidy Scheme (MASS), introduced in July 2016. This subsidy is paid directly to the alarm company to assist its customers with making the switch, ensuring its customers do not have to pay additional costs to make their system compatible.
Una Lawrence, Director of Policy ACCAN says the reason why some older people use non-monitored medical alarms is because they are cheaper and people haven’t got the budget.
“We understand that the issue has progressed a bit recently. nbn CEO Bill Morrow mentioned at a recent nbn Committee hearing on 1 August that a solution had been proposed to the Department of Communications and the Arts on request of Minister Fifield, and that they are waiting for the Department and Minister to make a decision,” she says.
A spokesperson for Minister Fifield says: “At the direction of the Minister, the Department of Communications is continuing to engage with nbn to identify what, if any, future initiatives may be required to further support certain categories of unmonitored medical alarms on the nbn.”
Ms Lawrence points out the recent death of an elderly woman who had an unmonitored medical alarm, which stopped functioning when her Telstra nbn voice service wasn’t working, has really highlighted this issue.
“Consumers should be aware of limitations of using such devices in power outages and assisted to find an adequate alternative service that will provide the security that they need,” she warns.
She believes this is an issue that needs to be addressed swiftly and urges nbn, the Department and the Minister to find a solution to the issue as a matter of priority. “The more voices raising concerns of the issue will raise awareness and we would welcome people contacting us about it,” she adds.
Mike Steele, Chief Executive Officer of CareAlert, a provider of non-monitored systems says he understands nbn co has been given directive to speak to industry organisations regarding the issues and he hopes, given that CareAlert is the largest non-monitored medical alarm supplier in Australia, CareAlert will be included in any consultation with the matter in hand.
He highlights in response to the issue, the company has spent the last 12 months developing a model which, if the landline or nbn modem fails due to a power failure or any type of disconnection, this unit will immediately switch to 3G battery back-up mobile sim card mode and continue to operate.
Mr Steele is very hopeful, given the recent survey nbn co had conducted of unmonitored medical alert users, nbn co was heading down the track of allowing customers the choice of upgrading to the latest model at a suitably subsidised rate.
The nbn spokesperson says it has a significant and resource-intensive case management program in place to identify and support users of medical alarms, and encourages anyone with a medical alarm or auto-dialler (i.e. non-monitored medical alarm) to add their details to its Medical Alarm Register (MAR) to assist with their migration to the nbn.
“However, registration on the MAR will not prevent disconnection of the copper once the disconnection date has been reached,” they say.
They add letters are sent to all homes and businesses who are able to connect to the nbn™ network with information on medical alarms and auto-diallers.