GOVERNMENT claims that a bigger, sharper-toothed aged care watchdog will prevent abuse in nursing homes have been rubbished by a leading advocacy group, which warns the inhumane treatment of residents will continue.
“The new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will not change what happens in nursing homes or the quality of care provided because aged care standards are left untouched,” said Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association policy co-ordinator Paul Versteege.
As The Senior reported in March, the government was forced to act on the abject failure of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency following public outrage and a damning Senate report into the body’s failure to protect frail dementia patients subjected to abuse and neglect at the Oakden aged care mental health facility in Adelaide.
A review of the agency’s audit system by former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell and Professor Ron Paterson was equally condemning.
“To treat the Oakden scandal as an aberration and the introduction of a new commission as the thing that will prevent further scandal is nonsense,” Mr Versteege said.
“There will be further scandals and the inhumane day-to-day treatment of nursing home residents will continue to be the rule not the exception.
“I have lost count of how many times the agencies responsible for auditing nursing homes and complaints have changed with much fanfare and claims that aged care in Australia will improve immeasurably.
“The new commission will not change anything until objectively measurable aged care quality standards are introduced and nursing homes are compelled to hire sufficient and adequately trained qualified staff to meet those standards.”
The independent one-stop-shop commission will bring together the roles of the quality agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health. It will include a new chief clinical adviser.
The single agency is one of the recommendations of the Carnell-Paterson report. A further recommendation of unannounced re-accreditation audits of aged care facilities has already been implemented.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the commission, to be up and running on January 1, would give people a single point of contact when they need help dealing with claims of sub-standard care.
Further reforms include developing a serious incident response scheme, a performance rating to show how individual nursing homes have performed against quality standards, and a user-friendly provider comparison tool on the My Aged Care website.
Other seniors’ organisations have been more enthusiastic about the new commission.
Council on the Ageing Australia chief executive Ian Yates said the move was a “welcome step” towards rebuilding confidence that older Australians will receive safe and appropriate care. Ian Henschke from National Seniors Australia said while putting the functions of three aged care bodies into one could be a challenge, if well implemented, it should lead to better monitoring and early detection of quality care issues.