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Review into aged care quality pushed back by recommendations

The reporting date for the ongoing effectiveness of the Aged Care Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework review by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee has been pushed back following the release of two recommendations in a new report.

The quality of care in aged care is still in review (Source: Shutterstock)
The quality of care in aged care is still in review (Source: Shutterstock)

Submissions for the review were sought by 3 August 2017, with a reporting date scheduled for 18 February 2018, a date which has now been rescheduled under one of the recommendations made in an interim report by the Committee to 28 November 2018.

As well as including the two recommendations, the interim report provides a thorough overview of the current submissions as well as some ‘committee views’ into the Oakden incident in South Australia, and the role of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA), who are under review.

The interim reports says the committee is “deeply concerned with the nature of the evidence presented to this inquiry which detailed the sub-standard, and in some cases abusive treatment of highly vulnerable older Australians with cognitive or mental health impairments.

“The committee is further concerned with evidence which points to systematic issues that negatively impact the quality of aged care services, not only at Oakden but throughout Australia.”

The report also adds that its focus is on the “abject failures” of the system designed to provide oversight of care standards at Oakden, with the committee’s broader concerns regarding aged care quality frameworks, which the committee considers “require review and consideration”.

This interim report has been welcomed by aged care peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), with Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney highlighting that quality in aged care is “not negotiable” and that there are no excuses for the failures in care that were identified at Oakden.

“In this context, the interim report calls into question the roles played by relevant South Australian authorities and the aged care quality regulator,” Mr Rooney says.

“This also gives rise to concerns regarding the regulator’s ability to effectively apply the aged care system’s quality and oversight frameworks more broadly, which the Committee has said will be further investigated.”

Despite welcoming the interim report, some conflict has been raised surrounding the second recommendation in the report which states that “all dementia-related and other mental health services being delivered in an aged care context must be correctly classified as health services not aged care services, and must therefore be regulated by the appropriate health quality standards and accreditation processes”.

LASA’s Mr Rooney says the findings also need to be considered alongside existing work in response to the Carnell Paterson Review and the new single aged care quality framework, adding that the interim recommendation that dementia care be reclassified as ‘health service’ could have “far reaching implications” for both the aged care and health sectors, recommending the issue requires “further detailed examination”.

Fellow aged care peak body Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) has also come forward in regards to the release of the interim report, with CEO Pat Sparrow urging the ongoing review to “closely consider” the role of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) in upholding the standards she says the community expects in aged care.

She adds that the comprehensive account of the failures of care at Oakden identified in the report “underscore the importance” of having an accreditation system that works for the protection of older Australians in aged care.

“The safety and quality of life of older Australians is the number one priority of our efforts as aged care providers,” Ms Sparrow explains.

“It is vital that those receiving and providing care are supported by firm but fair regulation that protects those principles, as well as identifying and punishing abuse and neglect when they occur.”

Ms Sparrow adds that the community and industry relies on the proper functioning of the AACQA for the upkeep of those standards, and urges the review to continue to look into the efficacy of the Agency in this role.

“While an individual provider is at fault when care standards are poor, the role of the Agency is to identify and address this for the residents, the community and for us as an industry,” she says.

“This report identifies numerous failings in the role… these must be addressed to ensure the community, and the sector, can continue to have confidence in the Agency’s role upholding safety and quality for all those relying on aged care.”

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