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14 Nov 2017


There is no question that the Australian aged care sector is in need of a system overhaul. The media stories examining the lack of choice and detailing examples of lack of service and care are all too fresh in our mind.

The AMA has welcomed recent calls for greater quality and more accountability in the aged care system. Indeed, we have led many of those calls.

We therefore strongly support those specific calls in the recommendations of Kate Carnell AO and Professor Ron Paterson ONZM in their report Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes, which was recently released.

The review was sparked by revelations that aged care quality regulatory processes had failed to adequately detect longstanding neglect and inexcusable flaws in care at the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service.  The review panel was unsurprisingly overwhelmed by families, advocates, peak bodies, service providers, health and aged care workers, academics and regulatory experts.

Their report reflects many elements of our own submission to the review process.

The appointment of a new dedicated Aged Care Commissioner who would oversee the work of an Aged Care Quality Commissioner, an Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, and an Aged Care Consumer Commissioner, is a recommendation in the report born from our AMA’s submission

The report also recommends much-needed improved communications for patient information sharing between State, Territory, and Federal Governments through the new Commission.

The AMA supports new processes to ensure residents are informed and educated on their rights as a consumer, and their right to complain about a service.

And the report suggests accreditation standards to implement restrictions around the use of restraints in residential aged care facilities, which we feel should always be considered a last resort.

Furthermore, there is an urgent need for clearer standards relating to clinical care in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) and the Report recommends more work from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care to make improvements in this area.

We also welcome the recommendation to increase the use of Resident Medication Management Reviews to reduce the risk of polypharmacy, which has led to a large number of medication-related hospital admissions for people aged over 65.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has also announced that RACFs will no longer be notified when re-accreditation reviews will occur. They will now be completely unannounced.

This is a good move.

While we welcome the Review recommendations, the real issue now is how quickly the Government will consider and adopt them.

Australia’s aged care population cannot wait for the other recommendations to be put in place. There is urgency as there have been far too many inexcusable horror stories emerging from some Australian aged care facilities.

Beyond the Review’s recommendations, the AMA would like to see further action including, but not limited to, a requirement that doctors be appropriately and adequately compensated by Medicare to increase access to medical care for people living in RACFs. Doctors’ clinical software systems need to integrate with My Aged Care and the RACFs’ software to improve patient information sharing.

Also, there should be better access to nurses in aged care facilities. Funding to recruit and retain qualified, registered nursing staff and carers who are specifically trained in dealing with issues that older people face should be a priority.

And we need an increased awareness of mental health issues in this vulnerable population to ensure the need for these services is identified through the Aged Care Funding Instrument assessment process.

We can’t allow another Oakden to occur. We must, as a nation, ensure our elders are always provided with the care they deserve.

Published: 14 Nov 2017