A new House of Representatives investigation into the mistreatment of residents in aged care facilities may put the brakes on timely reform of the sector, industry body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) warned late yesterday.
The group said the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport’s Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia would probably duplicate research and findings already undertaken and slow down the overhaul of nursing home regulation at a critical time.
The eight-member Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport will be chaired by Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman. It will take public submissions until 8 February 2018.
Mr Zimmerman said the committee’s examination of the aged care system would focus on the quality of care and services provided to elderly nursing home 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,” he said of one of the terms of reference.
Also to be probed is the incidence of all mistreatment of residents in residential aged care facilities and associated reporting and response mechanisms, including the handling of whistle blowers.
The committee will also focus on the effectiveness of a number or organisations, such as the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commission.
The Charter of Care Recipients’ Rights and Responsibilities will also be reviewed to ensure it contained adequate consumer protection for those in residential aged care.
Currently, more than 175,000 Australians live in permanent residential aged care. However, the committee would not be investigating individual cases of abuse. Those concerned about the treatment of a person in aged care can contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on 1800 550 552.
A spokesperson for Mr Zimmerman told YourLifeChoices that no deadline had been set for the committee to hand down its findings, but that it was expected the inquiry would be completed before next year’s May Budget. Details will be announced soon of the public hearings that members of the committee will hold around the nation.
Meanwhile, LASA chief executive Sean Rooney said aged care safety and quality were not negotiable.
“Age services providers, government and the community all share a desire for a high performing aged care sector, supported by a quality assurance and accreditation system that meets the needs of older Australians and upholds the standards the community rightfully expects when it comes to quality of care,” Mr Rooney said.
“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.”
Reviews that have already been completed include: the Tune Report on the Aged Care Legislated Review, the Carnell Paterson Report into the Government’s quality accreditation systems and processes, 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.
Mr Rooney said data from the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner demonstrated that “overwhelmingly, 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,” Mr Rooney said.