Changes to Increase Quality of Aged Care

Patricia Sparrow of Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) has expressed concern about the protocols for hospitalisation of residents of aged care facilities who contracted the Covid-19 virus. In a recent article in Hello Care magazine she was quoted as saying

“Since early in the pandemic ACSA has been calling for a change in hospitalisation protocols for aged care. We want to see governments mandate that the first residents, or index cases, who test positive for COVID-19 be transferred to hospital as a matter of course. Only South Australia and Queensland have adopted the policy that ACSA believes, and international evidence supports, Australia must take forward.”

As The Department of Health announced the ban that prevents Victorian aged care staff from working across multiple facilities has been extended for one month from 25 September 2020 to 26 October 2020 and may be extended further, Patricia also commented that

“There wasn’t enough support, and that support wasn’t timely enough, to ensure that staff were able to take time off or isolate if they had the slightest COVD-19 symptoms. Support and appropriate payments for leave need to be in place for all staff so they don’t need to worry about how they will pay the rent or feed their kids.

She said that the COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated workforce concerns that the industry has been raising with governments for years. She suggests that the one worker one site initiatives be evaluated, including ensuring that workers are not financially disadvantaged. She noted that during the pandemic it has become even clearer that there is not enough staff in aged care and more need to be trained and recruited. She feels it is time for the government to properly invest in a larger and more robust aged care workforce.

The ban was first put in place on 27 July with the aim of reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading among aged care residents and staff. The government pays the staff their usual wage but the providers must apply for a grant to receive the monies.

In a Report by Caroline Egan in Hello Care Magazine about complaints the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received, she stated that a total of 2,199 complaints in the three months to June 2020 were received, an increase of 800 more than during the previous quarter.

Of those it received 340 complaints about infection control and 270 complaints about communicating with family. In the midst of these complaints, the Commission conducted 782 assessment contacts in the quarter, but no sanctions arose from those contacts.

The Commission put unannounced audits on hold during the June quarter, and instead conducted ‘short-notice’ inspections of aged care homes, with providers given 24-48 hours’ notice.

During the June quarter, the Commission issued three ‘notices to agree’, which set out certain actions a provider must take within a set timeframe. These include the appointment of an independent adviser to provide direction and advice to address any non-compliances and to immediately implement and comply with all advice, recommendations and directions of Victorian local health authorities. Providers are also required to give close, ongoing attention to keeping residents and families informed about the regulatory actions.

With the strong focus on the quality of aged care provision during the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety it is hoped the industry will see changes for the better and more ongoing support to the sector in the near future.

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