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Government announces investigation into aged care accreditation

In a bid to get to the bottom of any short comings in the national regulatory system, Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt has announced an independent review of the Commonwealth’s aged care quality regulatory processes. 

(Source: Government of South Australia 'The Oakden Report')
(Source: Government of South Australia 'The Oakden Report')

Through the review, Mr Wyatt would like to discover how the extent of the failures of care at Makk and McLeay wards was not documented in the recent South Australian Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service review.

Last month the South Australian Government took the decision to immediately announce the facility’s closure after a review found 13 ‘serious issues’ had not been addressed.

Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), the peak body for not-for-profit aged care providers, welcomes the independent review into the process. “ACSA and its not-for-profit membership, are committed to providing quality care and support a firm but fair regulatory system which protects older people while allowing service innovation to flourish,” says ACSA Acting CEO Darren Mathewson.

“The vast majority of aged care facilities in Australia provide quality care and the safety and quality of life for residents and clients is the number one priority for aged care providers. However, ACSA understands the community needs to be assured that the Commonwealth’s system of regulation works as it should,” he adds.

COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates commends the Minister for taking this decisive and necessary action.

“Over the last two decades Australia has had one of the strongest aged care regulatory regimes in the world, which has without question resulted in major improvements in the quality of residential care,” Mr Yates says. “However, COTA has long been concerned that despite the formal accreditation and complaint processes mandated by successive governments, some poor behaviour has continued to ‘fly below the radar’, hidden from the accreditation processes; and with many of those residents and families who are affected not confident enough to complain.

The SA Government’s commissioned review of Oakden found: “The Review heard and saw evidence that Oakden became better at knowing how to produce documents and records that Accrediting Bodies and Surveyors wanted to and expected to see; and better at ensuring staff knew what to say. However, it became no better at providing safe or better quality care.”

Mr Yates believes this is a frequent observation from residents and families of residents in some nursing homes, - that an Accreditation Review happens and the nursing home passes but the issues they were concerned about continue. 

“This review commissioned by Minister Wyatt is an opportunity to not just evaluate current practice but to also consider systemic solutions to systemic problems,” he says.  

He suggests, for an example, residents and their families should have the right to move their bed licence to another nursing home at any time, without any barriers.

“This has been in place since February this year for Home Care Package holders and is already having a positive impact on increasing competition and quality,” highlights Mr Yates. 

“COTA Australia looks forward to working with the Minister’s review to achieve even higher standards of care and accountability through greater transparency of provider behaviour, better support services to residents and families, and greater consumer choice and control.

Mr Mathewson says ACSA is also looking forward to providing input into the Commonwealth review.

“When the review recommendations are handed down in July, there needs to be capacity for engagement with the industry around how they are implemented,” he says. “ACSA also welcomes the opportunity to work with SA Health to assist in planning for the future particularly in relation to care models, facility design, staff training and mentoring.”

Mr Wyatt says the Federal Department of Health has received complaints and had ongoing contact with this facility in the past, and the review would include looking at the role of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, and of the Department of Health. 

"I want this independent investigation’s recommendations to assure me and the community that the regulatory system in residential aged care works effectively,” he says.

Mr Wyatt also says it is important that people continue to report any issues of suspected abuse or poor quality services to the relevant bodies, such as the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, to ensure that we can identify and address issues in the quality of care in aged care facilities.”

The Review Terms of Reference have been developed and the independent reviewers will be announced soon. 

The Minister would like to see the review report by 31 August 2017.

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