Aged care failures show value of spot checks


The revelation by The Daily Telegraph that aged care provider Bupa has failed in its care at half of its NSW nursing facilities, shows at least one good thing; that the system of unannounced inspections is working.

We are only reading and hearing about these failures because of on-the-spot checks. In the past, providers were given a heads up about a looming inspection and they could ’fix things up’ for the visit!

Nonetheless it is a scandal that any failure to provide quality care in the sector persists to this day.

At the opening of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, National Seniors Australia put forward the case that the industry needs to make a stronger commitment to quality of care.

Currently, the industry is fragmented, overly reliant on governments to solve its problems by increased funding, and is failing to innovate as health and parallel industries do.

Every failure by an aged care provider to deliver quality of care is a black mark on the industry.

This is unfair on those aged care providers who do the right thing.

And it’s not as if the industry is not being monitored.

In the past six years there have been 36 public inquiries into aged care, and a further 14 in the six years prior to that.

The most recent inquiry, by the Productivity Commission, made 57 recommendations.

Of those 57 recommendations 10 were supported by the government, 10 were supported in principle, another 10 were partially supported, 17 were “largely supported”, nine were not supported and one was “noted”. That would be funny if it weren’t so confusing and serious.

After such examination, the public has the right to ask, why are failures such as those documented by The Daily Telegraph, still occurring?

And it’s not the only question that should be posed to the industry.

Taxpayers also have a right to know how their money is being spent by providers like Bupa, where failures are still occurring, while other aged care providers receiving the same amount of money are able to meet their care obligations.

As the Aged Care Taskforce into the sector has revealed, a symptom of the failure to provide quality of care, is an industry wide lack of training for staff.

We have seen many cases of terrible neglect and abuse on residents suffering dementia, caused by a misunderstanding or a lack of empathy.

National Seniors Australia has successfully campaigned for an industry recognised accreditation system for all staff treating patients with dementia, which is the second biggest cause of death in Australia.

Staff specialising in caring for patients with dementia goes a long way to improving quality of care and reduce the rate of horror stories exposed by the media and the Royal Commission.

But as the number of inquiries show, regulation can only go so far.

It’s time the industry made a solid commitment to stand together and put the care back into aged care.

As anyone who has made the difficult decision to place a loved one into residential care knows, confidence in quality care is at the top of the list when choosing a provider.

Older Australians and their families deserve better.

They deserve peace of mind to this end.

That peace of mind can only come when the industry puts quality of care above profits.

Professor JOHN McCALLUM

CEO – National Seniors Australia

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