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Concerns new inquiry into residential aged care could ‘slow down’ reform

Aged care peak bodies have stepped forward to voice their concerns that a new inquiry into residential aged care by the Federal Government could impede on the introduction of much needed reform in the sector.

The Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia has commenced, raising concerns among peak bodies (Source: Shutterstock)
The Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia has commenced, raising concerns among peak bodies (Source: Shutterstock)

The concerns were voiced late on 7 December when the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, chaired by Member of Parliament Trent Zimmerman, announced the commencement of the Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia following a referral on 6 December from the Minister for Health and Sport, Greg Hunt.

Mr Zimmerman says, “the Committee will be examining Australia’s residential aged care system, in particular, the quality of care and services provided to aged care residents.

“The Committee will also consider the consumer protections available for aged care residents, including those who do not have family members to help them exercise their rights.”

Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sean Rooney was the first to comment on the announcement of the review’s commencement, highlighting the many other recent reports and inquiries undertaken - including the Tune Report, the Carnell Paterson Report, a Senate inquiry into aged care quality assessment and accreditation, an Aged Care single Quality Framework, a Resource Utilisation and Classification Study, Increasing Choice in Home Care changes, and the new Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.

“We support this inquiry but are concerned that with the Federal Government already considering a number of significant inputs that will further drive aged care quality and reform, the work of the inquiry may duplicate research and findings already undertaken and slow down the process of reform at a critical time,” Mr Rooney confesses.

“Overwhelmingly, [data from the aged care complaints commissioner demonstrates that] the majority of facilities provide excellent care and are working continually to improve services.

“However, our commitment to ensuring quality and safety is emphatic and we will work with the government to support initiatives that are effective in reaching this end.”

CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Pat Sparrow, voiced some concerns saying the peak body will cooperate with this new inquiry, but urges that this, and other, ongoing reviews, must be targeted towards policy that supports the future of quality aged care in Australia.

“With numerous lines of inquiry currently open and under consideration by the government, there is a need to focus on those areas where reform efforts will have the most impact on quality and safety,” she says.

“The sector is in favour of a firm but fair regulatory system that supports consumers’ safety and upholds the standards the community rightfully expects when it comes to quality of care.

“With the announcement of yet another inquiry, we urge government to take a considered approach to all current review findings to ensure quality of care for older Australians”.

Ms Sparrow also states that the industry pays close attention to breaches of consumer trust and care, while knowing that these instances are “mercifully rare”.

“Overwhelmingly, the majority of facilities provide excellent care and are working continually to improve services,” she says.

“Providers should be supported in those efforts by regulation that is firm but fair and allows providers the ability to innovate and stay ahead of consumers’ needs.

“For these reasons, providers want to see beneficial outcomes from these reviews for consumers and providers alike.”

Submissions from interested individuals and organisations are open now until Thursday, 8 February 2018.

Further information about the inquiry, including full terms of reference and details on how to lodge a submission, are available online.

The Committee is unable to investigate individual cases and encourages anyone who has concerns about the treatment of a resident or the quality of service provided in an aged care facility to contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on 1800 550 552.

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