Today marks a watershed moment in the history of aged care provision in Australia. The recent announcement of an Aged Care Royal Commission sent shockwaves through the industry. In reality most providers struggle to meet all of the complex obligations of their profession. Quite simply, infrastructure and technology are not keeping up with demand and public expectation.
As if to mark the start of a race, on the First day of 2019 the Government officially launched the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. A single telephone number for aged care questions is a key feature of the new strategy, along with the appointment of a powerful Chief Clinical Adviser whose task is to set and monitor quality of care. notably, the Commission is funded with $300,000,000 (that’s a lot of zeros) to ensure it can ramp up auditing etc.
Will the care recipients really benefit?
The real question is, will this genuinely improve the quality of care being provided or simply add to the already heavy compliance burden aged care providers face? Certainly, the really dodgy operators should just close up shop now – their days seem, thankfully, very numbered. Small, family run providers may actually fare well because they know their business inside-out. Of course, they have to provide all the same care and standards as larger, deeper pocketed companies too. However, the middle size and larger operators will also need to step up their game. Some have been recently sanctioned for poor care provision, tarnishing their image of being ‘too big to fail’.
Growth of portfolios and shareholder profits will no longer be able to come before care for any provider, big or small.
Not-for-Profits too, who provide a substantial amount of the aged care in Australia, can expect to have a fine toothed comb run over their books. Even though they often care for the most marginalised, no one will be exempt from the eye of the Commission it seems. In fact, and quite rightly, care for every australian must meet the same minimum standards, regardless of demographics.
Expect some push back from Providers too, especially in the areas of mandatory carer-ratios, greater compliance costs (the government is pushing some of these onto the Providers) or even more compliance demands. For example, many providers dispute the value of a minimum number of staff to residents, citing care quality as of greater concern. Others, say they can’t afford it and point to the reduction in Government spending over the last few years as a key reason why. Others still cite a simple lack of qualified staff who will stay in the tough job for long enough.
The government may feel emboldened after the relative success of the Financial Royal Commission but make no mistake, Providers are no push over. They have a lot, often of their own, money and time invested in these businesses and are getting tired of the constant negative attention coupled with less and less financial reward.
Hold onto your hats folks, this could be a bumpy ride.
Below is the official Press release by Minister Wyatt
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP.Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Minister for Indigenous Health,Member for Hasluck.
Today marks a new era for Australian aged care, with the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission opening its doors, launching its one-stop quality and safety website and the single new contact number for aged care concerns and queries: 1800 951 822.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM said the new Commission was a landmark Liberal National Government aged care reform and would better target sub-standard care and ensure the safety and security of senior Australians.
“With the motto ‘Engage, Empower and Safeguard’, the Commission flags a new beginning for aged care quality and safety,” Minister Wyatt said. “A single Commissioner overseeing compliance monitoring, complaints and customer service means no more silos.
“For the first time, senior Australians and their loved ones have one place to go when they need help, want to raise a concern, or access information about an aged care service.
“In another first, the Commission includes a new Chief Clinical Adviser to oversee quality care delivery across the nation.
“The Commission will also be empowered by the new aged care Charter of Rights and will implement the new, stronger set of Aged Care Quality Standards, the first upgrade of standards in 20 years.”
The Commission has a budget of almost $300 million over four years, with more than $48 million to continue ramping up compliance checks and risk management, including the employment of dozens of new compliance officers and developing options for a Serious Incident Response Scheme.
The inaugural Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson, said she was delighted to open the new Commission for business and was ready for strong engagement with senior Australians, their families and aged care providers.
“Our key focus will be on safeguarding the more than 1.3 million senior Australians who receive some form of aged care service,” Ms Anderson said.
“The Commission’s vision is to support a world-class aged care service driven by empowered consumers who enjoy the best possible quality of life.
“Unannounced re-accreditation audits of aged care homes will triple in 2019, compared with 2018, and there will be an increase in unannounced inspections, to more than 3,000 this year.
“In recent weeks I have met with staff transitioning to the new Commission from the former Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the former Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, and I know they are totally committed to quality care.
“Our new website has also been carefully designed and tested to ensure it is user-friendly, with easily searchable information for consumers and providers.”
The website includes details on:
· Aged care consumer rights
· Access to free advocacy services to support senior Australians
· Consumer Experience Reports about individual aged care services
· Access to audit reports on aged care homes
· How to register complaints, including tips on documenting concerns
· New resources to help providers meet the Standards
· Translation services to support non-English speaking clients
Formation of the independent Commission was a key recommendation of the Carnell-Paterson Review, ordered by the Government following South Australia’s Oakden aged care tragedy.
“The new Commission is another example of our Government’s aged care reform agenda continuing at full pace, while the aged care Royal Commission goes about its important work,” said Minister Wyatt.
“We are dedicated to providing senior Australians and their families with confidence and certainty in quality aged care delivery.
“The establishment of the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is part of our Government’s record aged care funding boost, increasing aged care spending by $5 billion over four years.”
Minister Wyatt – Nick Way 0419 835 449
Authorised by Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Member for Hasluck.