A House of Representatives committee inquiry has called for sweeping changes to the current aged care sector.
The report has been tabled in Federal Parliament and looks to address questions on a number of the hot topic issues that aged care workers, residents and families want answers to, in preparation for the upcoming Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Parliamentary inquiry chair and Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, told the lower house that the committee supported the thrust of ongoing reforms, but “There is more that can be done to improve our aged care system.”
While there has been objection to the idea of mandatory staffing ratios from a number of aged care facilities and peak bodies within the sector. The committee inquiry recommends that all nursing homes should have a minimum of one registered nurse on duty at all times.
Which will come as welcome news to residents and families with a loved currently being cared for.
Surprisingly, a recent HelloCare poll indicated that almost 40% of our aged-care-centric audience was actually unaware that there was not a mandated minimum staff ratio in place.
Which would suggest that this percentage might be even greater if the question was posed to a larger audience of varied ages and backgrounds.
The committee has also flagged potential changes to work practices within facilities, asking for the use of restrictive practices in order to subdue residents to only be permitted as a last resort.
Vision of abuse from within Australian aged care facilities has been some of the most horrendous and confronting footage that the public has ever had to deal with. Although hard to watch, it’s a sad necessity in order to bring the plight of our countries most vulnerable to light.
With this in mind, the inquiry is looking to bolster the ability of volunteers to report potential abuse, and advocates the reporting of all assaults on residents regardless of an offenders mental capacity.
“Investigative reporting has highlighted other serious examples of mistreatment and this inquiry has received submissions from residents and family members often outlining what can only be described as harrowing experiences,” said Mr Zimmerman.
“This is simply not acceptable in a nation like Australia.’’
The inquiry has called for mandatory reporting of all assaults on residents, including assaults that are committed by residents with cognitive impairment who were previously exempt from reporting.
This focus on incident reporting also filters it’s way down to volunteers, calling for specific guidelines to be put in place with policies that aged care volunteers can follow in the event that they witness or suspect that a resident is being abused or neglected.
The committee has also recommended changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule which would help to ensure that aged care residents also had access to medical care from visiting doctors.
Giving volunteers the ability to potentially voice their concerns for residents and improving resident access to visiting doctors will add another dimension of transparency regarding the inner workings of aged care facilities.
Mr Zimmerman referenced the notorious Oakden scandal, where residents of a South Australian aged care Mental Health Service were assaulted, over-medicated and neglected,as an example of the depths that a facility can sink to.
“While perhaps the worst example, Oakden cannot be seen as an isolated event,’’ Mr Zimmerman said in the report.
This types of straight forward recommendations will be a breath of fresh air when compared to the highly complicated and convoluted explanations from aged care providers and peak bodies regarding the same issue.
And Australia is hoping that the Royal Commission feels the same way.