A new Aged Care Act, mandatory staffing ratios in residential care, changes to aged care funding and the home care waiting list cleared by December 2021 are just some of the sweeping recommendations for the sector by Counsel Assisting the aged care royal commission.
The new act would protect the rights of older people in aged care to be free of mistreatment and neglect; to exercise choice and control in the planning and delivery of their care; and have equity of access to care.
Counsel assisting's recommendations come after more than two years of hearings and submissions from the public and seniors' organisations. Commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs will present a final report by February 26, 2021,
The recommendations by Counsel Assisting also include a seniors' dental benefit scheme, improved access to medical, allied health and mental health services, restrictions on the prescription of antipsychotic drugs, mandatory minimum qualifications and compulsory national registration for personal care staff, a one month time frame for the allocation of a new home care package at the assessed level; and the provision of qualified 'care finders' to provide assistance on a local, face-to face basis, to people seeking or receiving aged care services.
On aged care staffing the recommendations include the provision of registered nurses, enrolled nurses, and personal care workers for at least 215 minutes per resident per day for the average resident from July 1, 2022, with at least 36 minutes of that staff time provided by a registered nurse (increasing to 44 minutes after July 1, 2024). In addition, from July 1, 2022, the minimum standard should require at least one registered nurse on site per residential aged care facility for the morning and afternoon shifts (16 hours per day), increasing to one registered nurse on site per residential aged care facility at all times from July 1, 2024.
The Australian Government should implement a new aged care program by July 1, 2024, that combines the existing Commonwealth Home Support Program, Home Care Packages Program, and the Residential Aged Care Program, including Respite Care and Short-Term Restorative Care and there should also be a social supports category within the aged care program to help reduce and prevent social isolation and loneliness among older people.
The recommendations address the use of physical and chemical restraint in aged care saying the Australian Government should introduce new requirements regulating their use by the middle of next year. A person receiving aged care who is the subject of a restraint should be readily able to seek an independent review of the lawfulness of the conduct and any breach by an approved provider of the new requirements should expose the provider to a civil penalty.
They also address the issues of younger people in aged care saying the Australian Government should immediately put in place the means to achieve, and to monitor and report on progress towards, the commitment announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on November 25, 2019, to ensure that no person under 65 enters residential aged care after July 1, 2022, no person under 45 lives in aged care from July 1, 2022 and no person under 65 lives in residential aged care from July 1, 2025.
Other recommendations include:
- An independent Australian Aged Care Commission;
- An independent pricing authority to determine aged care prices
- A demand-driven approach to aged care rather than the current rationed approach
- A new and independent process for setting aged care quality standards
- A new enforceable general duty of care on approved providers
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